As the countdown to the DIRC continues we look around the world at the regions that will be represented.

TODAY: SOUTH AFRICA

The highest quality Dubai International Racing Carnival to date commences on Thursday with an exceptionally strong equine cast gathering in Dubai for the $31million extravaganza.

Having saddled three of the six Thoroughbred winners on World Cup night 2008, as well as runner-up Asiatic Boy in the World Cup itself, the South Africans have a tough task to emulate last year’s achievements, but both Mike de Kock and Herman Brown have their biggest teams to date.

De Kock, the most successful Carnival trainer of all with 53 winners, with eight World Cup night winners, has about 40 horses based at Nad Al Sheba this season, including last year’s UAE Derby winner Honour Devil and Asiatic Boy (de Kock has won four UAE Derbies), winner of that race in 2007 and World Cup runner-up last year.

Both could clash in the 2009 World Cup according to their trainer: “Asiatic Boy did not settle in the UK last year so we brought him back to Dubai early and he is a lot further ahead in his preparation than 12 months ago as a result.

“He will probably contest the last two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge before the Dubai World Cup,” explained De Kock.

Both Archipenko and Eagle Mountain who, like Asiatic Boy and Honour Devil, carry the ever more familiar predominantly yellow silks of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, were Group 1 winners in Hong Kong last year and will be aimed at the Dubai Duty Free and Sheema Classic respectively.

De Kock continued: “Archipenko was unlucky in the Dubai Duty Free last year, while Eagle Mountain missed out through injury.

“I am certain he stays the 12-furlongs (2400m) for the Dubai Sheema Classic and both horses have shown how good they are in Europe, America and Hong Kong.”

Proven Carnival performers like Royal Vintage, Bennie Blue, Engrupido, Drift Ice and Frosty Secret are joined by a plethora of new recruits including South African Champion Sprinter JJ The Jet Plane.

Others joining the Dubai ranks from the trainer’s homeland include Imbongi, Hunting Tower, Rocks Off and Front House.

Throw in the likes of Bankable, Stubbs Art, Macarthur and King of Naples from Europe, as well as the usual youngsters from South America, such as Blues And Rock and India Tiberina and it is easy to see why de Kock feels his team his strongest yet.

The same applies of compatriot Herman Brown whose 13 Carnival winners to date are undoubtedly highlighted by Jay Peg’s win in last year’s Dubai Duty Free (a race de Kock has won twice).

With stable stalwart Linngari retired, Jay Peg is the obvious star name this year but Brown too has his largest ever team.

Brown explained: “We have more horses this year and hopefully it is our best team ever.

“That said, the horses have arrived later this time which is not ideal and we may need a week or two to reach our peak.

“We have left a few here all summer to acclimatise, including Oracle West who has been a great Carnival performer for Mike (de Kock).

Narc is another and he ran in the Sprint on World Cup night last year.

“We have some nice new horses as well with Guineas and Derby winner King’s Gambit perhaps the most interesting from home.

“Traffic Guard has been here before and did well in Europe, while Mourilyan won two here for John Oxx last season.”

Racecar Rhapsody from America, Lipocco from the UK and Basaltico from Italy are three others given a favourable mention but do not be surprised if further names are added to the Brown team in the coming weeks with his owners looking to strengthen their hand.

TOMORROW: UNITED ARAB EMIRATES