World Cup rivals lining up to take on Arrogate
US and Japan sending formidable teams for world's richest racecard
Although Arrogate looms over the Dubai World Cup, there appears to be no shortage of rivals keen to take on the world's highest-rated horse in the $10 million event on March 25 – not least from his own backyard in the US.
Arrogate is rated a 2-5 favourite for Meydan, where his trainer Bob Baffert will also saddle Grade 1 veteran Hoppertunity, beaten four lengths into third last year behind California Chrome.
Todd Pletcher may also be double-handed in the World Cup, with the progressive Neolithic possibly joined by Keen Ice. The pair finished third and fourth respectively behind Arrogate in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup in January.
Neolithic, a nine-length winner at Gulfstream before the Pegasus, is owned by Starlight Racing.
"I'm just tickled the horse got invited and we're going for it," said Starlight founder Jack Wolf, speaking to the Blood-Horse. "I don't know how we beat Arrogate and a couple of the other horses but we're going to give it the college try and see what happens. The horse is doing very well, so that's the number one thing."
Another intended US contender is Gun Runner, who has made a winning comeback in minor company at Oaklawn since being denied a run in the Pegasus because of quarantine restrictions at his Fair Grounds base in New Orleans.
"We'll just try to get there as good as we can and run our race," said David Fiske, racing manager for part-owners Winchell Thoroughbreds. "If it's good enough to beat Arrogate, then whoopee. Otherwise, we get beaten by the best horse in the world."
A strong-looking American contingent is being lined up for the rest of the World Cup card, notably in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Although Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Drefong has been ruled out, fellow Grade 1 scorer Mind Your Biscuits is an intended runner alongside recent Grade 2 winner St Joe Bay plus Imperial Hint and Stallwalkin' Dude, one-two in their Grade 3 prep at Laurel last month.
The US team will also feature Sharp Azteca, a four-length winner of the Gulfstream Park Handicap last month, is being targeted for the Godolphin Mile.
Japan has also enjoyed significant success on the World Cup card in recent years and thne country looks set to field as many as nine horses this time around – including no fewer than four in the Dubai World Cup itself, in which Victoire Pisa and Transcend recorded a memorable Japanese one-two on Tapeta at Meydan in 2011.
Last year's UAE Derby winner Lani is still on course, despite a mulish effort last weekend at Meydan in the final leg of the Maktoum Challenge. Lani's half-brother Awardee will also represent trainer Mikio Matsunaga; Awardee beat Meydan regular Hokko Tarumae to win last year's JBC Classic, the most prestigious race on Japan's NAR (National Association of Racing) circuit. Yutaka Take is set to ride the seven-year-old.
Apollo Kentucky, who beat Awardee in the Grade 1 Tokyo Daishoten, will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire, while Joao 'Magic Man' Moreira, who made headlines around the world with his record-breaking eight winners on a single card in Hong Kong on Sunday, will ride February Stakes winner Gold Dream.
The Brazilian has also been booked for Gold Dream's compatriot Vivlos, winner last year of the Shuka Sho (fillies' St Leger), in the Dubai Turf, in which compatriot Real Steel will defend his title.
Lemaire rides Japan Cup runner-up Sounds Of Earth in the Dubai Sheema Classic, while Hyacinth Stakes one-two Epicharis (Lemaire) and Adirato (Take) will bid to emulate Lani in the UAE Derby.