June 18, 2024

Dubai World Cup: Ushba Tesoro renews rivalry with Senor Buscador, Derma Sotogake

Ushba Tesoro finished like a freight train in the 2023 Dubai World Cup (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Defending champion Ushba Tesoro will meet 11 challengers in Saturday’s $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan, including Senor Buscador, who just edged him in the Feb. 24 Saudi Cup (G1); Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) runner-up Derma Sotogake; and recent Santa Anita H. (G1) hero Newgate for four-time World Cup winner Bob Baffert.

While Ushba Tesoro boasts the course-and-distance angle, Japanese compatriot Derma Sotogake also scored his biggest victory here in last year’s UAE Derby (G2). The about 1 1/4-mile prize should bring out the best in Derma Sotogake as well, and he’s eligible to improve from his comeback fifth in the Saudi Cup. Both are trying to make history that so far belongs exclusively to Godolphin’s Thunder Snow, the only UAE Derby winner to add the World Cup, and then the only two-time winner of Dubai’s signature race. Japan’s other two, Wilson Tesoro and Dura Erede, have something to find on form, but they were a close second and third, respectively, to Ushba Tesoro in the Dec. 29 Tokyo Daishoten (G1).

The Todd Fincher-trained Senor Buscador faces a distance question, stretching back out from the one-turn Saudi Cup, making Newgate arguably the leading U.S. contender. Todd Pletcher sends stamina-laden Crupi, a son of 2008 World Cup victor Curlin, who closed for third in the Jan. 27 Pegasus World Cup (G1). Clapton has already raced during the Carnival, finishing third in both the Al Maktoum Challenge (G1) and Al Maktoum Classic (G2) for Chad Summers.

The talented (and popular) Kazakh-connected contender, Kabirkhan, stamped himself of international class in the Jan. 26 Al Maktoum Challenge. Now 10-for-11, the son of California Chrome gives longtime Dubai horseman Doug Watson a proper chance at World Cup glory. Nine-year-old Military Law is a much more exposed commodity for Musabbeh al Mheiri, but he did move forward from a sixth behind Kabirkhan to win the March 2 Al Maktoum Classic.

Read more: 10 storylines for the Dubai World Cup

Two American expats, former Baffert pupils, are also in the line-up – Grade 2 veteran Laurel River, last known stateside for being scratched from the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Defunded.

Juddmonte homebred Laurel River, transferred to Bhupat Seemar in hopes of starting over in Dubai, just bolted up in the March 2 Burj Nahaar (G3) at a metric mile. On pedigree, Laurel River should stay the World Cup trip, although he might have to expend more energy than ideal to set the pace from the outside post 12. Defunded was exported to Saudi Arabia, where he was seventh in his premiere for new connections in the Saudi Cup.

Earlier on the program, Kentucky Derby (G1) implications loom large in the $1 million UAE Derby (9:50 a.m. ET), as Japan’s budding star Forever Young puts his unbeaten record on the line in hopes of booking his ticket to Churchill Downs. The Yoshito Yahagi trainee drew post 13, but will move in a couple of spots following the defections of Killer Collect and Satono Phoenix. His rivals include Christophe Clement’s Pandagate, by 2017 World Cup champ Arrogate; Aidan O’Brien shippers Henry Adams and Navy Seal; local winners Mendelssohn Bay and Guns and Glory; and fellow Japanese Ballon d’Or and George Tesoro, all battling for points on the 100-50-25-15-10 scale to the top five eligible finishers.

The World Cup card is brimming with terrific match-ups. The turf action is particularly compelling, as Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) supremo Auguste Rodin takes on the might of Japan in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), and three-time Dubai Turf (G1) kingpin Lord North faces a cosmopolitan cast in yet another title defense. Sibelius tops the U.S. raiding party as he goes for a repeat in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), and Casa Creed flies the flag in the grassy Al Quoz Sprint (G1). The Thoroughbred action kicks off with Brad Cox’s Saudi Crown versus defending champ Isolate in the Godolphin Mile (G2) (8:05 a.m. ET).

For expert picks and suggested wagers, check out the TwinSpires.com Edge!