Dubai World Cup: Does money still talk for the world's richest race?

(CNN)With a purse of $10 million it's the world's richest race, but this year's Dubai World Cup is perhaps a case who's not rather than who's who of the nine-strong field.

A few weeks ago, the field had the makings of a truly stellar one before Toast of New York, the UAE Derby winner, and last year's Breeders' Cup Classic champion Bayern were among the withdrawals.
True, American racehorse of the year in 2014, California Chrome, which won the first two racess of the Triple Crown before coming up short in the Belmont Stakes, will be there, but in general it's been hard work persuading American owners to make the trip to the Middle East.
    Cigar helped establish the Dubai World Cup's landmark status after it was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 1996, but the love affair Stateside has never truly been kindled.
    For much of the horse-racing fraternity in the U.S., the thinking is that the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup -- described as the Super Bowl of horse racing in a recent promotional video -- are big enough, likewise the prize money for them to stay put.
    Even California Chrome is in some ways a reluctant entry.
    His trainer Art Sherman explained to UAE-based newspaper The National: "The purse has a lot to do with it. The owners always said they wanted him to run against the best in the world so I suppose that is where we will have to go.
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    "To me, it is a long way, I've never been there before. Your horse goes over there and they say it takes three months to recover."
    One major issue has been the lay-out of the track since 2010 when it moved to its $1 billion home at Meydan Racecourse, with racing on a synthetic surface.
    Wriiting in a Daily Racing Form article, American horse racing journalist Steve Cristto went as far as to suggest "running the world's richest race on a synthetic surface makes it something of a white elephant, little more than a rich novelty."
    With synthetic terrain seemingly on the wane globally, organizers have switched to a dirt track, a clear ploy to lure the American runners.
    But it has not quite materialized for this year at least, with just four American horses entered for the main showcase event some of which are very much lesser lights.
    That could yet alter from next season onwards and there is a nice synergy from the days when the true greats of horse racing competed at the Dubai World Cup.
    None came bigger than Cigar, whose trainer Bill Mott is at Meydan aiming for a second career success in the event's 20th running with Lea.
    Of the world's top 10 ranked horses in 2014 just two, Epiphaneia (second) and California Chrome (equal ninth) are in the field, not quite befitting of the world's richest race.
    California Chrome cost just $10,000 -- owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin buying the mare Love the Chase and paying just $2,000 for her to breed with Lucky Pulpit, the first breeding of the novice pair with miraculous results.
    "He's a lot stronger right now," Sherman told Bloodhorse website ahead of the Dubai World Cup. "He's been training awesome. It's about as good as I've seen him train since I've had him.
    Despite some of the star turns being absent, Sherman insisted: "You have two key horses that could have given you competitions and, when they're not there, you say 'well, there's two I don't have to outrun, but there's still other heads of horses over there and plenty of quality."
    Will it cap a bright not for Meydan organisers? They should be so lucky.