Photos by @Rblifeisgood
The feature race of the day at Meydan is the Grade 1 $10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline. Run at a mile and a quarter on the dirt, some of the best dirt horses from North America had made the trek halfway around the world for the big prize.
With the retirement of Horse of the Year Gun Runner , this is a race that is supposed to be the coronation of West Coast as the best horse in the world on dirt. Last year’s Eclipse Award winner as best three year old, the Bob Baffert trainee seeks to defeat older horses for the first time in his career as his last five victories came against straight three year olds. He is versatile enough to be able to either set the pace or be able to stalk if someone else wants to go for lead early. He is 4-5 on the morning line and will be ridden again by Javier Castellano, who was aboard for his previous two starts when he lost to Gun Runner.
The intriguing horse in this race is (7) Talismanic. The winner of last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, he prepped for this race with a victory over the all weather surface at Chantilly earlier this month. He is bred to handle the dirt as he is by Medaglia d’Oro. He is conditioned by one of best trainers in the world, Andre Fabre. He will take money because of his victory at Del Mar last year. But is he is good enough to race on regular dirt and win? Can he compete and possibly defeat (9) West Coast? This could be a tall order.
An intriguing North American runner is the mare (6) Forever Unbridled. The Eclipse Award winner as best older Filly and Mare last year, she had a light schedule in 2017. But each time she ran she was able to come off the pace win, completing her undefeated season with a victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She is trained by Dallas Stewart, who is one of best trainers to prepare a horse to be very competitive in major races. He may not necessarily win those races, but he has brought some not highly regarded horses to finish in the money in those races.
(3) Gunnevera is a horse that many have liked since winning the Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs in 2016. Because of his running style, many are waiting for the day when he puts it all together and gets up in time to win the big one. But the fact is that his last three victories came in races with shorter than usual stretch runs. So it’s obvious that timing his move and sustaining it has always been a problem. One other problem he has is that he has been dealing with a bruised foot all week. He will probably be an underlay versus these North American betting pools.
(5) Mubtaahij is a horse that drives every handicapper crazy. He always shows potential in North America but more often than not he disappoints. He has five career victories and four of them came at Meydan. But that was in 2014 and 2015. He finished fourth in last year’s running of the Dubai World Cup. He showed improved early speed in his last two starts prior to this race so one has to wonder if he will employ similar tactics here.
The horse that is expected to be on or very close to the pace with West Coast is (2) North America. He led every step of the way to win the Grade 1 Round 3 Al Maktoum Challenge last. He is five for seven lifetime on dirt with a second and third place finish in his other two dirt starts. While the pace is not expected to be fast, he should keep the pace honest if he decides to allow West Coast to go to the lead early.
Every race needs a longshot to spice up the exotics so let’s take a look at (1) Awardee. The Japanese import finished fifth in the Dubai World Cup last year. At first glance people would get turned off by his ninth place finish in the Group 1 February Stakes last out. But that race was only at a mile on dirt. The Japanese are not the type to ship unless they feel confident about their chances being competitive and winning. Ridden by legendary Japanese jockey Yataka Take, Awardee is 50-1 and worth using underneath in the exotics.
On paper, this is West Coast’s race to lose. He is regarded as the best horse in training right now and this is his opportunity to show it. He should go off at a short price. This is horse racing, strange things do happen and upsetting the favorite could easily happen here. With that in mind, let’s go with the horse that doesn’t get the respect more often than not but always runs a great race. The top choice will be (6) Forever Unbridled. She may not be flashy, she may not have spectacular numbers. She just goes out and gets the job done. The second choice will be West Coast and then to spice things up we will use the longshot Awardee for the third.