Racing UK

Bob Baffert has no worries about Meydan surface for Arrogate

Monday 20 March 2017

By Geoffrey Riddle in Dubai

Bob Baffert has no qualms about the Meydan dirt surface after he presided over Arrogate's work at the Dubai racecourse on Monday in preparation for Saturday’s Emirates Dubai World Cup.

Arrogate galloped around the Meydan main track before finishing off with a four-furlong breeze under exercise rider Dana Barnes just before dawn.

Fellow Baffert trainee Hoppertunity underwent a similar workout over 800 metres just after 7am, also under Barnes. 

Arrogate is a best-priced 2-5 to win the World Cup on Saturday and join former stablemates Silver Charm and Captain Steve on the World Cup roll of honour. Hoppertunity, who was third last year to California Chrome, is a best-priced 16-1 with Coral.

"It is a good surface," Baffert said. "It is soft and they get over it well. He has run on it all. I have worked him over muddy, whatever. He takes it in his stride. If he shows up, and is doing well he will run well."

Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001) won their World Cups at Nad Al Sheba, and Hoppertunity was Baffert's first runner in the World Cup since Meydan switched from Tapeta to dirt for the 2015 World Cup.

"I’ve never won it here (at Meydan), and it’s totally different," Baffert added. "I really liked that old track (Nad Al Sheba), but this is totally different (with) tighter turns. You need a lot of racing luck to get away from the gate. It becomes a jockey’s race.

"And you never know until they start turning for home – is the horse going to show up? As a trainer, you’re just hoping that at the quarter pole, they’re moving."

No horse has won the Dubai World Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same season and owners Juddmonte have made it clear that the Classic at Del Mar is the ultimate objective for the son of Unbridled’s Song. 

Baffert suggested that whatever happens in Saturday’s $US10million (£8.05m) event, Arrogate will be given most of the summer off in preparation for his November 4 date, for which he is a best-priced 5-4 with Sky Bet.

"It was a gut decision to bring him here," Baffert added. "A horse like him, if I run him here and he is doing well I can freshen him up for the fall [autumn] racing so he will get a well deserved vacation after this."

After Monday's declaration stage at which 14 stood their ground for Saturday's showpiece, Arrogate will be ridden by regular partner Mike Smith, while Hoppertunity will once again be partnered by Flavien Prat.

Hoppertunity is one of four horses in in the World Cup who ran in the ten-furlong contest last year. Mubtaahij, who was second, will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon, while Special Fighter, who was fourth, will have World Cup-winning rider Fernando Jara in the saddle once more.

Mubtaahij has not won since he struck here two seasons ago in the UAE Derby, but has run creditably at the top table in both Dubai and America since. 

De Kock estimated that Mubtaahij was only 85 per cent fit when second to Etijaah in the Curlin Handicap over course and distance last month, and he hopes improvement and local experience can make Mubtaahij competitive.

"Saturday has been his target since he was second last year," De Kock said. "Ideally we would have had two runs, as we did last year, but we ran out of time a bit so ran him a month ago instead of Super Saturday.

"We were pleased enough with him not to run him again and he is in great shape ahead of what looks another strong renewal. Arrogate is clearly world class and going to be tough to beat but at least we are proven under these conditions."

American challenger Keen Ice, who was eighth last year for Ryan Moore, will now have Javier Castellano in the saddle having moved from Dale Romans to the stable of Todd Pletcher, who will also saddle Neolithic, the mount of John Velazquez. 

The US raid is completed by Gun Runner, who is trained by World Cup-winning handler Steve Asmussen.

Moore picks up the difficult ride on Lani, last season’s recalcitrant UAE Derby winner who finished down the field over course and distance in the Al Maktoum Challenge three weeks ago. Lani is one of four Japanese challengers in the race, which includes his half-brother, Awardeee, who will be ridden by Yutaka Take. Christophe Lemaire will guide Apollo Kentucky, while Brazilian superstar Joao Moreira will get the leg-up on Gold Dream.

Saeed Bin Suroor has won the World Cup a record seven times and will be represented by Move Up, while the rest of the UAE defence includes Erwan Charpy's Furia Cruzada, the only mare in the field, and Long River, who beat Special Fighter in the Al Maktoum Challenge over course and distance three weeks ago.

Arrogate working at MeydanDubai World Cup favourite Arrogate has looked in good shape at morning trackwork at Meydan for the past three days (Dubai Racing Club)

There may be no British interest in the main event, but there are plenty of contenders on the supporting card, headlined by Postponed, who bids to repeat his success of last year in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic.

Roger Varian's charge is joined by the Aidan O'Brien-trained Highland Reel and Seventh Heaven, with John Gosden sending the Godolphin-owned Jack Hobbs for the 12-furlong heat that has drawn just seven runners - the smallest field in the history of the race.

Rober Charlton's recent Meydan victor Decorated Knight forms part of a strong challenge for the Dubai Turf, with William Haggas' Mutakayyef another of the leading lights.

Richard Fahey runs Ribchester with David O'Meara's globetrotter Mondialiste and Mick Channon's Opal Tiara lining up alongside the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Very Special.

O'Brien runs Cougar Mountain, Deauville and Long Island Sound in a 14-runner event.

The Henry Candy-trained Limato is one of 12 declared for the Al Quoz Sprint along with Paul Midgley's Final Venture, Medicean Man from Jeremy Gask's yard and O'Brien's Washington DC.

Charlie Appleby has both Baccarat and Jungle Cat in the sprint heat while his Fly At Dawn is one of 16 in the UAE Derby.

The Bin Suroor-trained Thunder Snow impressed in his prep and he will be joined by stablemate Top Score in a race that also features Marco Botti's Qatar Man and O'Brien's Lancaster Bomber.

Appleby's Comicas and the Mick Halford-trained Wild Dude feature in the 14 contenders for the Dubai Golden Shaheen, with Hugo Palmer's Gifted Master the only British contender in the Godolphin Mile.

There is a strong British representation in the Dubai Gold Cup with Charlton's Quest For More lining up alongside the Michael Bell-trained Big Orange and Ed Dunlop's Trip To Paris.

Palmer's Wall Of Fire and Sheikhzayedroad, who is trained by David Simcock, give further depth to a 14-strong field that also stars O'Brien's Kingfisher and the Godolphin runners Famous Kid and Beautiful Romance.

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