DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Can Albertus Maximus go the distance?

The question has followed the favorite during every workout for the 1 1/4-mile Dubai World Cup and its $6 million payday Saturday – a longer distance and bigger purse than ever won by the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred.

With a field of 14 set for the world’s richest race, the outcome could come down to those final furlongs for Albertus Maximus, who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile but has never won at the World Cup distance.

“Everyone is talking of Albertus Maximus having stamina doubts, so we will have to make it a proper test and find out if he stays,” said jockey Johnny Murtaugh, who will be aboard Asiatic Boy – runner-up in last year’s World Cup far behind two-time American Horse of the Year Curlin.

This year’s race, however, features no clearly dominant entry – allowing for plenty of talk that the winner’s circle is very much up for grabs.

“If Asiatic Boy runs the same race that he ran last year, he will be right there fighting out the finish and, hopefully, will get the job done,” said Murtaugh.

Anak Nakal, trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, finished his workout with a gallop on the main track.

“It’s all good,” said Zito’s assistant trainer Tim Poole.

Last year’s third-place Dubai Cup finisher, Well Armed, did a light three laps around Nad al Sheba, which will close after the race to make way for a new $1.25 billion racing complex.

“I like my chances,” said California-based trainer Eoin Harty. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I was confident last year and I am equally confident this year.”

But the main scrutiny has been on the endurance of Albertus Maximus, purchased last year by a member of Dubai’s ruling family.

Exercise rider Rob Massey, a former steeplechase jockey, has often pushed Albertus Maximus on long gallops in the past days.

“We can’t do anymore with him,” Massey said. “The rest is up to him.”

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin – who won the 2007 Dubai World Cup with Invasor – believes the extra distance is within the colt’s grasp. But he acknowledges that are still “a couple questions.”

“It’s only his second start on dirt and his first at 10 furlongs,” said McLaughlin. “But, having said all that, we still expect him to be hard to beat.” British oddsmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes on Friday had Albertus Maximus as the 5-2 favorite, followed by Asiatic Boy at 3-1. Casino Drive, the lone entry from Japan, was 9-2 with William Hill and 4-1 with Ladbrokes.

Casino Drive’s trainer, Kazuo Fujisawa, said the dirt at Nad al Sheba is similar to the surface at many American tracks familiar to his horse. He’s also concentrated on speed workouts in anticipation of a fast break from the gates.

“There seem to be some horses … with early pace, so I hope he can track them easily enough,” said Fijisawa.

The Dubai World Cup is the final event of a seven-race card that includes Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap winner Kip Deville, trained by Rick Dutrow, in the Dubai Duty Free; Desert Party, part of the Dubai ruler’s Godolphin racing operations, in the UAE Derby; and female sprint champion Indian Blessing, trained by Bob Baffert, in the Golden Shaheen.

AP-ES-03-27-09 1253EDT


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