Horse Racing
Country Grammer faces serious Japanese and UK opposition in his stab at a second Dubai World Cup victory

22/03/2023 15:53

Country Grammer must confront a ferocious eight-strong Japanese cohort along with UK-trained Algiers – who has inflicted wide margin defeats on smart rivals in two Group 2s at the 2023 Meydan Carnival – as he endeavours to win a second consecutive G1 Dubai World Cup (2000m) on Saturday (25 March).

The 2000m spectacular – concluding the eight-race simulcast – underlines the progress Japan has made in world-class dirt racing and the fact that so far, they have only won a single Dubai World Cup in its 26-year-history, looks like a statistic destined to be shattered.

It was Panthalassa – trained by the brilliant Yoshito Yahagi – who landed Japan their first victory in last month’s G1 Saudi Cup (1800m) despite competing in the world’s richest race on only his second mission – from 25 starts – on a dirt surface. Under his Dubai World Cup rider Yutaka Yoshida he exploited a low gate and blitzed from the front to fend off the dramatic late surge conjured by Frankie Dettori on Country Grammer.

Dettori, 52, says of his narrow defeat at King Abdulaziz racecourse on Bob Baffert-trained Country Grammer:  "They pay down to the first ten in the Saudi Cup and I thought at the quarter pole that we may not even get into the money. He doesn’t have instant acceleration but is all heart and keeps finding more and more."

Looking forward to the Dubai World Cup – which he has won four times including on Country Grammer in 2022 – Dettori says: "Country Grammer never runs a bad race and the 2000m in Dubai is perfect for him – more his thing than the 1800m in Saudi."

It is fair to say Simon and Ed Crisford-trained Algiers would not even have been mentioned as a Dubai World Cup prospect at the beginning of the year. But to say that he has blossomed understates the progress of the James Doyle-ridden son of Shamardal, first pulverising 15 rivals in R1 of the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge (1600m) and then, despite having to challenge wide, proving way superior to eight rivals in R2 of the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge this time over 1900m – posting some terrific closing fractions. He has live World Cup expectations and being locally owned would be an exceedingly popular winner.

The Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) on turf is one of four other Group 1s on the card and boasts both Russian Emperor (Alberto Sanna) and Senor Toba (Frankie Dettori) representing Hong Kong. They face menacing opposition not only from Japan’s multiple G1 winner Equinox (Christophe Lemaire) but also from a highly-talented UK-based trio of Mostahdaf (Jim Crowley), Westover (Ryan Moore) and Rebel’s Romance (William Buick). The latter’s trainer Charlie Appleby has a strong Sheema Classic record and Rebel’s Romance returns from a 140-day absence following a five-race winning spree, his trademark late acceleration again showcased with an electrifying victory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (2400m) at Keeneland last November.