West Coast starting Dubai World Cup horse race as favorite

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Arrogate started the Dubai World Cup from the ninth gate last year and won.

West Coast has drawn the ninth gate this year and is the race favorite.

Bob Baffert has a shot at becoming only the second trainer to win the $10 million horse race in successive years on Saturday.

The four-year-old West Coast, ranked the No. 3 racing thoroughbred in the world, won the Travers Stakes in Saratoga Springs last year, but comes to Dubai having finished second to Gun Runner – the No. 1-ranked racehorse who was beaten by Arrogate last year – in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup in his last two starts.

In 10 career starts, West Coast has never been out of the first three, and won six of them.

West Coast, to be ridden by Javier Castellano, has drawn the second widest post.

Baffert’s other entry, Mubtaahij, is at the fifth post in the 10-horse race over 2,000 meters on dirt. Mubtaahij was second to California Chrome in the 2016 Dubai World Cup.

“I don’t think there’s a really bad post when you’re going a mile and a quarter,” the American trainer said. “The only thing I worry about is the break. The horse is more important than the post, so I’m fine with it.

“West Coast likes a soft, sandy track. He looks really good and strong, and it’s pleasing that he hasn’t lost a pound since he arrived here.

“Actually both horses are 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.”

American horses have won the Dubai World Cup 11 times in its 22 years. Baffert has three of those wins, after scoring also with Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

Only seven-time winner Saeed Bin Suroor, the trainer of home stable Godolphin, has tasted success in successive years.

Godolphin has won the race eight times overall, and its hopes this year are on Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Talismanic, and the Bin Suroor-trained Thunder Snow.

Talismanic, trained by Andre Fabre, is considered a rival who could challenge West Coast, along with North America, trained by the United Arab Emirates-based Satish Seemar.

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.