Mike de Kock was not exactly smiling when Mubtaahij drew the outermost barrier gate 14 as he bids to give the master conditioner his first win in Saturday’s 22nd renewal of the $10 million Gr1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan.
The well travelled Mubtaahij was runner-up in this race last year behind California Chrome and was described by his champion conditioner recently as a genuine Gr2 horse – ‘not quite Gr1 class’.
On the flipside of the coin, Bob Baffert was in relaxed mood at the draw ceremony when his odds-on favourite Arrogate was drawn 9, along with dark horse and 16-1 stablemate Hoppertunity, who drew 12.
The runaway Pegasus World Cup winner, Arrogate has flourished in the desert and looks supremely fit and ready as he tries to stretch his winning run to seven and take his career earning past the £12 million mark.
“I didn’t want the one or the 14 but nine is fine,” said Baffert on the draw.
“They still have to break well. The main thing is for him to get away and then after that Mike Smith will decide what he’s going to do. I always leave it up to Mike.”
Baffert added: “Everything has gone pretty smooth and we’re just playing the waiting game now the last of the suspense is over. He’s an exceptional horse and the heavy favourite but he still has to have racing luck and it’s not a gimmie.”
De Kock has two runners on the evening and will be looking to convert three seconds in the Dubai World Cup into a first victory in the rich race – and also has a shot at winning his seventh UAE Derby, with the Malan du Toit reschooled Fawree. De Kock is the foremost Derby winner, next to Saeed Bin Suroor.
The lightly raced Fawree has come through his ‘rehabilitation’ with flying colours and if he behaves himself, could make a bold bid for the first prize.
The $30 million Dubai World Cup night is the conclusion of the UAE racing season, where 13 nations will compete over nine high-class races , including six Gr1 and three Gr2 contests.
Besides the racing, there will be trop-class entertainment in the form of Australian pop star Sia, whose hits include Cheap Thrills and Chandelier.
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