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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