DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Ruler of the World could live up to its name in the $10 million Dubai World Cup it starts as favorite at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
Trained by Aiden O'Brien, the son of Galileo won last year's Epsom Derby and enjoys top billing in the world's richest horse race, which has two of the world's three top-rated thoroughbreds in Military Attack and Akeed Mofeed, both from Hong Kong.
Notably, the main race does not feature any American horses and connections, who have triumphed in eight of the previous 18 Dubai World Cups, including last year by Animal Kingdom.
A total of 16 horses will start the 2,000-meter race on the synthetic Tapeta track, which will be preceded by two $5 million Group 1 races - the 1,800-meter Dubai Duty Free and the 2,400-meter Dubai Sheema Classic, both of which will be on turf.
Ruler of the World, co-owned by Qatar-based Al Shaqab Racing, is making his first start of the season. He was last seen finishing third in the Group 1 Champions Stakes at Ascot in October.
He drew post 12, which didn't impress rider Joseph O'Brien, the son of the trainer. "We'll have to make the best of it," O'Brien said.
"Ruler Of The World has done plenty of work at home and I just gave him a little canter round to let him stretch his legs. He seems to have travelled well and is in good form. He's matured and his work has been pretty good.
"It's very difficult to know whether he will handle the surface which is new to him, but he has a great attitude and won the Derby in only his third ever start.
"He's ready to get started in what will hopefully be a long and successful season. He's ready to do himself justice."
Military Attack, rated second in the world behind American horse Game on Dude, and No. 3 Akeed Mofeed have form going for them while not having had much of a break.
The Emirates' hopes of a sixth home victory through the Godolphin stables rest with Prince Bishop and African Story, both trained by Saeed bin Suroor, and Vancouverite and Cat O'Mountain, trained by Charlie Appleby.
Japan is represented by Belshazzar and Hokko Tarumae, and four British horses are in the frame, including the Ed Dunlop-trained Red Cadeaux, the runner-up last year.
Meydan wouldn't confirm reports that the Tapeta track, blamed as the biggest reason why the American connections have stayed away, will be removed next year.
Support for Tapeta's removal came from Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the brother of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the owner of Godolphin and ruler of Dubai.
"When Animal Kingdom won the title last year, his trainer said, 'Thanks God we have won the cup and our horse is safe,'" said Sheik Hamdan, whose Invasor won the 2007 race and who has Mukhadram running on Saturday.
"The Americans didn't like to send their horses to race on the surface after having removed it from all their tracks, and never race on the Tapeta anymore."
The one American-raised horse in the race, the Saudi-owned Ron The Greek, drew the one gate everyone hoped to avoid - the 16th in a field of 16.