IT should be worth the wait for when Arrogate (USA), officially the best dirt racehorse and joint highest-rated of any horse on the planet, takes to the Meydan dirt surface in anger on Saturday evening.
He will face 13 rivals in the UAE’s flagship race, the 2000m Group 1 US$10m Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline, as one of two runners for trainer Bob Baffert who already boasts two winners of the race when it was contested at Nad Al Sheba.
Beaten just once, on debut, in seven career outings, Arrogate ended 2016 by beating last year’s World Cup winner, California Chrome, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and had that rival well behind when landing the Pegasus World Cup in January.
Both races were over 2000m and, under Mike Smith, he certainly looks the one to beat, while stable companion, Hoppertunity (USA), was third in this last year and sports the same colours of Baffert’s 2001 World Cup winner, Captain Steve.
“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” said Baffert. “It is very exciting to be here with two such good horses and it would be great if they could run first and second.”
Obviously, plenty of other trainers will be hoping that is not the case. South African Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij (IRE), winner of the 2015 UAE Derby, was second to California Chrome last year.
“We were pleased with his one run this year and he has come on a lot for that outing,” said De Kock. “We were pretty happy until the draw; 14 is not good but it is what we have and we will need to deal with it.”
Godolphin handler Saeed bin Suroor, the only trainer more successful in the race than Baffert, is seeking an eighth victory in the biggest race of the country of his birth.
He relies on Move Up (GB), fourth on Super Saturday in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 over the same course and distance. That was his dirt debut and first outing since winning at Ascot in October.
“He needed that run and is an improving horse,” said Bin Suroor. “We all know Arrogate is very good but my horse has progressed since Super Saturday and should run well. We were last out of the draw but I was delighted with stall six.”
Fourth in the 2016 Dubai World Cup was Special Fighter (IRE), second in Super Saturday’s Al Maktoum Challenge R3 on his first start since, as well as on his debut for new trainer, Maria Ritchie.
In that race three weeks ago, he chased home Long River (USA), trained by Salem bin Ghadayer and was never headed under Mickael Barzalona. Drawn two on that occasion, he departs from the same stall on Saturday.
“I really could not be happier with the draw and he showed how good he is on Super Saturday,” said Bin Ghadayer. “It is a stronger race but he will not be disgraced.”