Melbourne Cup form will prove a key factor in the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup on Saturday night as the likes of Heartbreak City, Beautiful Romance and Big Orange look to topple last year's hero Vazirabad.
In what looks a quality renewal of the two-mile Dubai Gold Cup (3200 metres) Alain De Royer-Dupre's Vazirabad will look to follow up last year's success when he held off Michael Bell's Big Orange by a neck. The five-year-old won that first-up but this time around heads back to Meydan with a prep race having finished second to Godolphin's Beautiful Romance at the track over two furlongs shorter.
Vazirabad boasts an impressive strike-rate and is a proven Group 1 performer but Beautiful Romance should prove value in the market as there can be no guarantee that the form will be reversed on Saturday.
Saeed Bin Suroor's Beautiful Romance is a highly-talented mare who has progressed significantly since leaving UK shores to challenge globally. The five-year-old ran a blinder to finish seventh in the Melbourne Cup in what was her first experience of a large field at elite level. She duly won her next start on Australian shores in the Zipping Classic at Sandown before returning after a three month break in winning the Group 3 at Meydan last month.
The extra distance on Saturday will be no problem for Beautiful Romance and with fitness on her side and progress still to come she looks well capable of extending her winning run.
Last year's story of the Melbourne Cup was undoubtedly Tony Martin's Heartbreak City who was a brilliant runner-up in a gruelling duel with Almandin. The dual-purpose seven-year-old warmed up for this with a spin over hurdles at Leopardstown in January although at the time it wasn't decided whether he would target this or the Cheltenham Festival. He seemed to be in need of the run in Ireland and he has reportedly looked spot-on for Saturday's test. A battle-hardened stayer with a fine turn of foot it will be great to see Heartbreak City back on the Flat and fingers-crossed he can make it back to Flemington this year.
Big Orange ran a top race when second in this last year but this does look a tougher renewal. After finishing in mid-division in the Melbourne Cup, he was third behind Beautiful Romance in the Zipping and then had a tough ask in Hong Kong. The six-year-old will be well suited by the step back up to two miles but does need to get his own way in front to produce his very best and he does look susceptible to horses with a greater acceleration at this level.
High-class UK stayers Sheikhzayedroad (David Simcock) and Quest For More (Roger Charlton) were one-two in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot and also bring over a top level of staying form. The latter defeated Vazirabad in a tight finish to the Prix Du Cadran at Chantilly last year and is closely matched with Sheikhzayedroad who has the benefit of a run after finishing third behind Beautiful Romance and Vazirabad here last month.
Two other horses from the 2015 Melbourne Cup add further interest in the form of Trip To Paris and Kingfisher. Ed Dunlop's Trip To Paris enjoyed a spectacular 2015, winning the Ascot Gold Cup and finishing fourth to Prince Of Penzance at Flemington but after sustaining an injury couldn't reach that level of form in three runs last year. Meanwhile Aidan O'Brien's Kingfisher, who was runner-up to Trip To Paris in the Ascot Gold Cup, has not been seen since running down the field in the 2015 Melbourne Cup. It's a mammoth ask to return after such an absence at this level but clearly Ballydoyle feel he's well worth keeping in training and remains a talented stayer.
Catch the Dubai Gold Cup along with all the racing from the Dubai World Cup meeting on Sky Racing on Saturday night.