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Dubai World Cup preview: How dangerous is flashy Mukhadram?

Newmarket, England: Mukhadram, who has finished in the first three in seven of his 10 races to date, is my idea of the winner of the 2014 Dubai World Cup.

This five-year-old, with relatively few miles on the clock, has had this race earmarked since last summer, when he proved himself among the best over this distance in Europe.

He is just the type to progress with age, and with his speed looks set to enjoy a big advantage here.

Mukhadram likes to bowl along in front and he finishes his races off strongly too. Such runners are very dangerous if they get away with a soft lead.

There may be two or three in this field that have looked more flashy than Mukhadram, but he has so much going for him here, and trying to produce a horse with a late flash may not be the best way to beat him. Going with him is not an option either for riders of horses that like to be held up for a late run. The horse of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, has a good opportunity here, no doubt about that.

Military Attack, whose name was Rave when he raced in England in his younger days, is a champion in Hong Kong with international success to his name. His most recent performance was one of his best ever, and he also has a big chance having made his mark on the big stage by winning the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Sha Tin last spring (beating multiple Group One winner California Memory).

He went straight from that success to the Singapore International Cup (G1) and was impressive as he came home more than three lengths ahead of Dan Excel, a rival he met again in the Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) in February this year.

Also in the race was Akeed Mofeed, who had Military Attack back in fourth when winning the 2013 Hong Kong Cup.

Military Attack gained his revenge in no uncertain manner. Racing over his favoured 2,000 metres trip at Sha Tin, he returned to his very best with an easy three-length win over Dan Excel, with Akeed Mofeed back in fifth. It was Military Attack’s ninth career win and No 10 could well happen on World Cup night.

Akeed Mofeed is in the same class. For whatever reason, he ran below par in the Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1). Any horse can be excused one poor run, however, and I believe we should rank him highly in the World Cup field.

Previously trained in Ireland, Akeed Mofeed improved markedly for his new connections in Hong Kong last year when he won the Hong Kong Derby (G1) and Hong Kong Cup (G1). He looked seriously good as he found his way out of a pocket at a crucial stage of the cup finish, and quickened past Tokei Halo to win by a length.

Tokei Halo, who runs in the Dubai Duty Free (G1), is one of the best horses in Japan, and beating this contender so readily made Akeed Mofeed one of the best in Hong Kong. He won the 2,000 metres event in the style of a horse ready to take on bigger tasks. Third, fourth and fifth places were filled by Group One winners Cirrus des Aigles, Military Attack and Side Glance.

This piece of form is solid, and it came as no big surprise to see Akeed Mofeed begin 2014 with another win. It came in a race of lesser importance, the Centenary Vase (G3) over 1,800 metres at Sha Tin in February, but the achievement was a great deal better than a first glance at the result chart might lead you to believe. Akeed Mofeed was much, much the best in this handicap, giving weight to all of his nine rivals. Runner-up Ashkiyr, a good performer with a Group One placing to his name, had 20lb (9kg) less on his his back. With recent stakes winner Same World third and Dan Excel back in fourth, Akeed Mofeed had produced yet another notable performance.

Akeed Mofeed was popular in the betting for the Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) three weeks later. Going off at 11-10, he was marginally preferred over Military Attack. Though Akeed Mofeed had an off-day and passed the winning post in fifth place, 5 ¼ lengths behind Military Attack, who he had beaten by 1 ½ lengths in the Hong Kong Cup (G1). So, on this year’s form, it is hard not to side with Military Attack as Hong Kong’s best chance of lifting the World Cup. Then again, it is hard to forget the explosive finishing kick displayed by Akeed Mofeed last December, and his solid weight carrying performance in February.

Ruler Of The World failed to follow up on his Derby (G1) win last year but he was rather inexperienced at the time and his run in Britain’s premier classic probably took a lot out of him, both physically and mentally. However, he is the type to progress again as a four-year-old. He was a bit of a surprise winner at Epsom last June, beating Libertarian by one-and-a-half lengths to win at odds of 7-1. The ‘bounce’ came after he could only finish only fifth, 10 lengths behind Trading Leather, in the Irish Derby (G1) four weeks later.

Was his Epsom performance a bit of a fluke? We don’t quite know yet but his best run in the autumn, after a summer break, indicated that it wasn’t. Ruler Of The World returned with a fine run at Longchamp in Paris in September, when he was an unlucky runner-up to the Japanese Derby winner Kizuna in the Prix Niel (G2), an important prep race for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). The ‘Arc’ itself was to treat Kizuna a lot better than Ruler Of The World, however, as the Japanese colt came home in fourth behind the brilliant filly Treve, while Ruler Of The World was seventh past the post.

A combination of heavy ground and some trouble in running contributed to this below-par performance. He did well to finish as close as he did. Ruler Of The World also suffered a rough trip when beaten by a head by Kizuna in the Niel. His record to date would make Ruler Of The World a perfect fit in the Sheema Classic, but he cuts back in distance and switches to a new surface to go for the biggest pot on the night.

One thing he is going to need, to make this work, is a solid pace. As mentioned with Mukhadram, this race could easily be run at a slow to moderate pace, however.

— The author is a thoroughbred form expert and editor of www.stabell.co.uk