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)
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)
Trainer: S bin Suroor
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
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.”
Andre Fabre is looking to add to his solitary victory on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan with four runners on Saturday.
The master French trainer won the 2004 Sheema Classic with Polish Summer, although Loup Sauvage did finish third in the 1998 World Cup behind Silver Charm and Swain.
He will be represented in the World Cup this year by Godolphin’s Talismanic, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner who narrowly failed to follow up in the Hong Kong Vase behind Highland Reel.
Talismanic faces a switch to dirt but he is at least by a stallion in Medaglia D’Oro, who was second in the 2004 World Cup.
Cloth Of Stars arguably has a better chance in the Sheema Classic, though, having finished second to Enable in last season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Talismanic, trained in France by Fabre, enters the race with a prep run under his belt, beating stable companion Cloth Of Stars on the polytrack at Chantilly on March 6.
Fabre, who is Godolphin’s main trainer in France, has been to Dubai many times, but the striking Talismanic, whose bold face and white stockings attracts attention wherever he runs, might be his best chance yet to win the big race.
“Talismanic has always been a very good horse,” said Fabre. “Remember he was fourth in the Prix du Jockey Club at three and that was the year that the horse was affected by the virus.”
There should be ample pace in this year’s edition of the Dubai World Cup, but it will be Talismanic’s first attempt on the dirt and Fabre said: “I have to be fair, there is still a question mark about the surface.
“I didn’t want to run Talismanic and Cloth of Stars in the same race and Talismanic was in great shape, so I thought I’d line him up in this race.
“My feeling is that to run on dirt you need more strength. It is a surface that favours stamina and resistance more than speed. And Talismanic has the confirmation and the pedigree to act on this surface.
“They have had a good preparation and I’ve been very happy with them since.”
He added: “I don’t know what sort of chance he has, I have no idea. It is a big race with the horses from North America and Japan. It is very exciting, and I respect all the American horses, but there is no Curlin or Arrogate this year.”
Fabre also runs Trais Fluors in the Dubai Turf and Rosa Imperial in the Godolphin Mile.