With three Eclipse Awards and six Grade I wins to his credit, Gio Ponti could have headed to the breeding shed with nothing left to prove.
Instead, the 6-year-old son of Tale of the Cat was brought back for the 2011 season to try to capture one of the few prizes that has slipped through his grasp.
Castleton Lyons' homebred champion Gio Ponti will head up the American-based contingent competing on the $26.25 million Dubai World Cup card at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
A two-time defending Eclipse Award winner for champion turf male, Gio Ponti competed in the $10 million Dubai World Cup last year, finishing fourth in racing's richest contest.
The bay horse has not raced since finishing second to champion mare Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs last November and is facing a daunting lineup of 13 challengers, including multiple Group I winner Twice Over and the Nick Zito-trained Fly Down.
"He seems to be in good order and I hope he can put his best foot forward," Shane Ryan, owner of Castleton Lyons, said of Gio Ponti. "(To win) would be the icing on the cake. He's done everything we've asked. Just to be back a second time, to have a bite at the cherry again, is great."
Gio Ponti is not the only American-based horse making a return visit to Dubai this year. The Carl O'Callaghan-trained Kinsale King will try to defend his title in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen 1,200 meter-sprint, taking on, among other, the Bob Baffert-trained Euroears.
Kinsale King finished the year with a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint but began this season with a victory on Feb. 17 at Golden Gate Fields.
"He's feeling really good. He's ready to jump out of his skin," said O'Callaghan, whose jubilant, spontaneous dance during last year's win was one of the World Cup's most memorable moments.
Other notable horses competing on the World Cup card include Grade I winner I Want Revenge, who will attempt to give trainer Rick Dutrow a win in the Godolphin Mile, and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Dangerous Midge, who is set to compete in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic.
Mineshaft on the mend
Lane's End stallion Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year, is recovering after undergoing colic surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital Thursday evening.
The son of A.P. Indy had surgery for a bowel obstruction, but suffered no blood loss to his intestine and is expected to make a full recovery.
"We are very pleased with how Mineshaft is progressing and would hope he will return to service during the month of April," said Will Farish of Lane's End in a statement. "Any breeder needing to discuss their breeding plans can call Lane's End at any time."
Mineshaft is booked full for the 2011 season. He has a leading contender on the Kentucky Derby trail this season in his son, Holy Bull Stakes winner Dialed In.
Sweet Ducky to Derby?
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Sweet Ducky's performance in the UAE Derby on Saturday will likely determine whether he runs in the Kentucky Derby, his trainer said Friday.
The American horse was purchased two weeks ago by Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya from George and Lori Hall for an undisclosed amount.
Trainer Herman Brown said he would prefer to have several more months to work with him. But the South African said a top finish could be enough to send Sweet Ducky to the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
"We will have learned a lot from watching the horse run here," Brown said. "It is asking a lot of a young horse to do what we are asking. If he runs in the first three it would be a good effort for him."
Sweet Ducky last raced in January, finishing second to Dialed In at the $400,000 Holy Bull. He has three wins in six career starts.