Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline Notes, Thursday, March 29, 2018

Photo: West Coast (USA) (Bob Baffert) Dubai World Cup (DRC & Neville Hopwood)

Awardee – A day after Wednesday’s drill on the dirt track, Awardee visited the starting gate at Meydan Thursday morning.

“He was a bit nervous and was not settled in well when he came to the gate area, but he was getting used to it and stood still in the gate,” work rider Masaru Yokoyama said. “He will be back to the regular workout over the dirt course tomorrow. In my opinion, I want to draw a more outside gate. He does not like to be trapped on the rail.”

Forever Unbridled – Owner Charles Fipke, who arrived in Dubai on Wednesday, got to see his champion mare on the track for the first time on Thursday when she went out at 5:15am for a 2400m gallop under her longtime rider Pedro Velez.

“She looks pretty awesome,” Fipke said. “She’s still getting acclimatised, but she looks very nice. (Trainer) Dallas (Stewart) calls all the time and has been giving me positive reviews.”

When asked what went into the decision to run Forever Unbridled in the Dubai World Cup, Fipke said, “She’s quite valuable. To run in a $1 to $2 million Group 1 when she’s worth 15 times that doesn’t make sense to risk her. But, for a big purse where she could win $6 million, it’s worth the risk.

“If she wins, she’ll be the first mare ever to do that. It’s nice to be first. I like to be first with whatever I do.”

Furia Cruzada – Erwan Charpy was thrilled with the draw of post four for Saturday’s race and has simply kept Furia Cruzada ticking over away from the track this week.

“We changed it a little today, but she just did another nice easy canter for about 2000m,” Charpy said. “I didn’t want to be too close to the media and the noise from Breakfast with the Stars. I’m very happy with her, she’s nice and relaxed.”

Gunnevera – Trainer Antonio Sano spent a sleepless night after his Dubai World Cup contender Gunnevera became slightly lame on Wednesday. However, following a long foot soaking and a change of shoes, the 4-year-old colt was much improved by Thursday morning and ventured to the Meydan dirt track to school in the starting gate.

“Thank God, he is perfect now,” Sano said after patting the chestnut on the nose as he stood quietly in the gate. “He had a little bruise on his left front foot, so we pulled the shoe and soaked the foot in water with Epsom salt. We left the shoe off overnight and then replaced it this morning.

“The farrier told me, ‘Antonio, take care of this horse and he’ll be good for the race.’ He did a great, great job with the foot,” Sano said.

Gunnevera came out at 7am for his Thursday schooling session and a light jog from gate down the nearby chute. However, he did not do any more exercise other than completing the about 4800m roundtrip journey from and back to the quarantine barn area.

Sano said he plans to send Gunnevera to the Meydan dirt track at 5am on Friday to gallop approximately 2400m under the floodlights, and the trainer hopes the foot issue will be completely resolved.

“I am so happy with my horse and I hope he will be 1,000 percent for the race,” he said.

North America – Everything about the preparation of North America for the biggest test of his career continues to go perfectly, according to trainer Satish Seemar.

“That applies to my other four runners on the programme,” he said after supervising easy gallops for the squad at his Zabeel Stables on Thursday. “Ever since they worked seriously on Monday, everyone has had a good spring in his walk, but I’m especially excited about North America.”

Stable jockey Richard Mullen exuded similar confidence about the 6-year-old gelded son of Dubawi, and echoed Seemar’s satisfaction with the outcome of the random post-position draw. “Stall two is ideal,” Mullen said. “He’s a natural front-runner, so I should be able to go forward from the start.”

Front-running tactics resulted in a stunning success by five and a quarter lengths over Thunder Snow in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Super Saturday.

“He’s got to improve again, considering the opposition he’ll be facing,” Mullen said. “But for a horse who never shows much in the morning, his work on Monday makes me think he’s still progressing. He could be the dark horse of the race, and he’s definitely my best chance of a Thoroughbred winner on the night.”

Pavel – Two-time Kentucky Derby winning rider Mario Gutierrez was trackside this morning to watch Pavel enjoy an easy canter over the Meydan dirt track.

Gutierrez guided I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016) to victory for the same connections, trainer Doug O’Neill and owner Reddam Racing LLC. The Mexican-born rider, who got his start at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, Canada, rose to prominence in North America with I’ll Have Another and he’s hoping to make a truly international splash on Saturday night.

“He has the potential and he has the ability to run really good,” Gutierrez said. “I’m really excited about him and we’re under the radar a little bit. It reminds me a little bit of 2012 with I’ll Have Another.”

“I love the challenge of these high-profile races. I have a good connection with my horses and I know how to ride in these types of races. The pressure doesn’t bother me,” Gutierrez said.

Pavel, who graduated at first asking in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita Park, has competed exclusively in graded events through six starts since with his best effort coming in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx when six lengths the best.

“At the beginning of his career he was doing tremendously well, but we kind of rushed him a little bit,” Gutierrez said. “He was facing tough competition early in his career. In his second and third starts he was competing against Grade 1 type horses and even older horses.”

Last time out, Pavel ran fourth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes after a troubled trip as the race favorite.

“This year we’ve had some bad luck with trips. In his last race especially, he should have won for fun, but I got myself into a lot of trouble,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez stood trackside just after 7am with assistant trainer Leandro Mora as Pavel powered through his morning trackwork under Amir Cedeno.

“After that last race he’s trained tremendously. It doesn’t look like he’s lot any weight on the flight over here and he looks fantastic and seems happy,” Gutierrez said.

The 30-year-old Gutierrez has done his homework ahead of the Dubai World Cup and is well aware of how prominent trips factored into the results on Super Saturday a few short weeks ago at Meydan.

“Fast, fast, fast,” Gutierrez grinned. “You have to pay a little bit of attention to that, but at the same time you have to wait until the race day. On race day, you never know if they’ll overwork the racetrack. A key factor is to watch the races through the day and see how the races develop and choose from that.

“At the end of the day, I think his style will suit any type of racetrack. He’ll be forwardly placed, close to the speed and if it’s a heavy racetrack we might be a little bit farther from the leaders.”

West Coast and North America may take most of the betting on Saturday night, but don’t count out the improving Pavel who could sort out a sneaky trip behind the pacesetters.

“He’s tactical. That’s his best talent. I can rush him and he’s not going to run off on me. I can place him exactly where I want to place him,” Gutierrez said. “This race on Saturday is going to have enough speed. It won’t be like last time and I’ll be able to cut out a nice trip. When I ask him to go, he really explodes. He has a tremendous kick and I’m hoping he shows up on Saturday with the best of his ability.”

Talismanic – On Thursday morning, Amelie Foulon, the first woman to ride a Group winner in France, was back on board Talismanic, trained by André Fabre in Chantilly, France. The striking looking 5-year-old came onto the dirt track at Meydan racecourse at 7am, where he did a regular canter over about 1600m in company of stable companion Rosa Imperial.

He looked nice and relaxed and Lisa-Jane Graffard, the Godolphin representative from France, confirmed.

“Talismanic cantered, as did Rosa Imperial and they looked really nice and happy in themselves,” she said.

Thunder Snow – Having watched Thunder Snow canter around the Al Quoz training track on Thursday, his trainer Saeed bin Suroor said: “We drew gate 10, which is OK because he should be available to avoid the kickback if he breaks well. He is in top form and, hopefully, can bounce back having perhaps disappointed a bit on Super Saturday.”

West Coast/Mubtaahij – While fine-tuning the training of his two entries in the Dubai World Cup, Mubtaahij and West Coast, Bob Baffert said he considers the quality of the international field akin to that of a race in the Breeders’ Cup.

“You can’t come in here with a ‘B’ horse,” he said. “I’m really excited and it’s a privilege to be here, but this race is a challenge. You can’t be afraid to get them beat.”

To ensure both horses go into the starting gate with the best chance of winning, he sent them there for a schooling lesson first thing Thursday morning before each galloped over the main track.

“The gate here used to be smaller. Silver Charm didn’t fit in it,” said the trainer, who won his first Dubai World Cup with Silver Charm in 1998 and then added the 2001 edition with Captain Steve and last year’s running with Arrogate. “You have to get them used to it because it’s narrow (compared to an American gate). So, this gives them a chance. When they get in there it might get a little tight, so you just back them out of there and put them in again. I’ve always done that when I school horses.”

West Coast, the reigning American champion 3-year-old male, looked the picture of health as he seemed to float over the well-groomed dirt track shortly after 5am under Dana Barnes. Mubtaahij, who was second in the 2016 Dubai World Cup and third in the race last year, seemed right at home on the track where he won the UAE Derby in 2015 and has made 10 previous starts when Barnes galloped him shortly after 7am.

“They fluffed up the track and it has a cut in it and they both went over it great. West Coast likes this kind of track, a soft, sandy track. He looks really good and he looks strong. He hasn’t lost a pound. They’re both pretty happy,” said Baffert. “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.”

What will make Baffert happy is a clean break when Mubtaahij breaks from post five and West Coast departs from post nine. Though the race will be contested at 2000m, the first turn around the main track at Meydan Racecourse comes quickly.

“The only thing I worry about is the break. They have a short run (to the first turn) here. It’s only two furlongs,” he said.

On Thursday, Baffert was accompanied to the track for the first time by his longtime top assistant, Jimmy Barnes, who arrived from their base in Southern California the previous night. Gary and Mary West, the owners of West Coast, are expected in Dubai today and are attending the event for the first time.