Russian Emperor's lucrative Middle Eastern mission reaches a crescendo at Meydan on Saturday night and while the two-time Group One winner will have his work cut out adding another top-level victory to his resume, connections will be hopeful of securing their slice of the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic's US$6 million bounty.
After taking out the US$2.5 million H.H. The Amir Trophy (2,400m) - a local Group One - in Qatar last month, Russian Emperor was an eye-catching fifth in the Group One Jebel Hatta (1,800m) at Meydan on Super Saturday earlier this month.
He faces one of the toughest tests of his career in a Dubai Sheema Classic that pays down to sixth and while Japanese star Equinox and reigning Group One Breeders' Cup Turf (2,400m) champion Rebel's Romance might prove too strong for the regally bred six-year-old, trainer Douglas Whyte is confident he'll hold his own.
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"I'm not going out there with the confidence to say, 'This horse will win', I'd be stupid to do that against this sort of a field, but he'll give a good account of himself," Whyte said.
"I think in this sort of race confident would be the wrong word to [use]. I know my horse is healthy, his run on Super Saturday was fantastic, he's going into the race in the best condition I could possibly have him, but you're lining up against some of the best horses in the world.
"If my horse runs competitively and can do himself and Hong Kong proud, I'd be more than happy with that kind of performance."
Russian Emperor is rated a $34 chance in fixed-odds markets, with Equinox the $2 favourite, and he is joined in the Sheema Classic by the Caspar Fownes-trained Senor Toba, who is the $67 outsider of a field that also features reigning Hong Kong Vase (2,400m) champion Win Marilyn.
Earlier on Dubai World Cup night, Hong Kong pair Sight Success and Duke Wai tackle the Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) and Glorious Dragon goes around in the Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m).
Former Hong Kong-based jockey Neil Callan partners Glorious Dragon for first-year trainer Pierre Ng Pang-chi, while another familiar face to local fans, Alberto Sanna, climbs aboard Russian Emperor.
Four-time Hong Kong campion jockey Joao Moreira, who snared a Group One double aboard Sha Tin-trained gallopers Amber Sky (Al Quoz Sprint) and Sterling City (Dubai Golden Shaheen) on a magical Meydan evening in 2014, will also be plying his wares at the mega-rich meeting, jumping aboard Cafe Pharoah in the US$12 million Group One Dubai World Cup (2,000m) on the dirt.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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