Bob Baffert bidding for second straight Dubai World Cup with West Coast

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Bob Baffert has high hopes for favourite West Coast in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, as the American trainer bids to land the race for the second straight year after Arrogate’s thrilling 2017 triumph.

West Coast, an even-money shot with most bookmakers, has come up just shy in the biggest dirt-track races so far this year, finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup, the world’s richest race.

But everything looks in place for the three-year-old to go one better in the $10 million race at Meydan on the richest day of the international racing calendar, after the retirements of Arrogate and old rival Gun Runner.

“West Coast likes this kind of track, a soft, sandy track. He looks really good and he looks strong,” said Baffert, who will also saddle Mubtaahij for the world’s second-most lucrative race.

“They’re both pretty happy. You can tell if they’re on point when you take them out in the morning. You can tell by the look on their faces and in their eyes if they’re happy.”

The 65-year-old Baffert, who trained American Pharoah to his stunning American Triple Crown win in 2015, saw Arrogate break in last place 12 months ago before dramatically circling the field and beating Gun Runner by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

Drawn in post nine for the mile-and-a-quarter race, West Coast will need a better start than Arrogate’s.

“The only thing I worry about is the break. They have a short run (to the first turn) here. It’s only two furlongs,” said Baffert.

A staggering $30 million is on offer across the nine races on Saturday, but despite no longer being the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup remains the jewel in the crown for its founder Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

While West Coast is a worthy favourite under jockey Javier Castellano, Godolphin has plenty of chances as the stable looks to give Sheikh Mohammed an eighth World Cup victory.

British runner Talismanic is Godolphin’s best chance, second of the 10 runners in the early betting at 7-1, and will be ridden by French jockey Mickael Barzalona, who won the race on Monterosso in 2012.

Another horse firmly in with a shout is North America, after the six-year-old laid down a marker with a dominant win over Thunder Snow at Meydan’s ‘Super Saturday’ meeting earlier this month.

“It’s a dream for me that he is peaking at the right time,” North America’s trainer Satish Seemar said. “He’s as fit as he can be, and if he’s at his best, I feel he is as good as any horse in the field.”

Thunder Snow has been installed at 14-1, while Gunnevera is a 9-1 chance after finishing a distant third behind Gun Runner and West Coast in the Pegasus.

Elsewhere on the card, Godolphin’s Cloth of Stars is the early favourite for the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic on the turf, after finishing second to Enable at last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Benbatl is well-fancied to take the Dubai Turf, also worth $6 million, after two victories and a second-placed effort from three Meydan starts.

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All eyes on West Coast in fight for Dubai World Cup glory

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Bob Baffert has high hopes for favourite West Coast in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, as the American trainer bids to land the race for the second straight year after Arrogate’s thrilling 2017 triumph.

West Coast has come up just shy in the biggest dirt-track races so far this year, finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup, the world’s richest race.

But everything looks in place for the three-year-old to go one better in the $10 million race at Meydan on the richest day of the international racing calendar, after the retirements of Arrogate and old rival Gun Runner.

Ahead of the race, we take a look at the ten horses competing for Dubai World Cup glory.

1. AWARDEE (USA)

Owner: Koji Maeda
Trainer: M Matsunaga
Jockey: Yutaka Take

2. NORTH AMERICA (GB)

Owner: Ramzan Kadyrov
Trainer: S Seemar
Jockey: Richard Mullen

3. GUNNEVERA (USA)

Owner: Salomon Del Valle
Trainer: A Sano
Jockey: Joel Rosario

4. FURIA CRUZADA (CHI)

Owner: Avaz Ismoilov
Trainer: E Charpy
Jockey: Antonio Fresu

5. MUBTAAHIJ (IRE)

Owner: Sh Mohd bin Khalifa Al Maktoum
Trainer: B Baffert
Jockey: Victor Espinoza

6. FOREVER UNBRIDLED (USA)

Owner: Charles E Fipke
Trainer: D Stewart
Jockey: Mike Smith

7. TALISMANIC (GB)

Owner: Godolphin
Trainer: A Fabre
Jockey: Mickael Barzalona

8. PAVEL (USA)

Owner: Reddam Racing LLC
Trainer: D O’Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

9. WEST COAST (USA)

Owner: Gary and Mary West
Trainer: B Baffert
Jockey: Javier Castellano

10. THUNDER SNOW (IRE)

Owner: Godolphin
Trainer: S bin Suroor
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon

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Godolphin's Gold Town faces acid test at Dubai World Cup

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Charlie Appleby believes Gold Town must take another step up in order to justify strong favouritism for the UAE Derby at Meydan on Saturday.

The Godolphin runner is unbeaten in two starts at the course and will attempt to go one better than his sire Street Cry, who finished second in the corresponding race before plundering the World Cup the next year.

One of the highlights of the 2018 Dubai Carnival has been the ease with which Gold Town dispatched his foes in the Guineas Trial and the Group Three UAE 2000 Guineas.

And in a blowout on grass on Wednesday and a gentle spin in the Marmoom dirt track on Thursday morning, the gelding has ably completed his preparation for the move up the class ladder.

“What he has done here has been impressive, but Saturday is a step up for him,” said Appleby.

“I think the longer distance improved him from his first race to the second and I hope he can do the same over the Derby trip.

“He is taking on better horses this time, in a far tougher contest. Hopefully he can rise to the challenge.

“We’ve been thinking about the Kentucky Derby, but let’s get to Saturday first and see how he gets on there.

“He likes running on dirt and the switch to that, along with him being gelded, have made a huge difference to him.”

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