Trainer Todd Pletcher has earned back-to-back Eclipse awards as leading trainer and has won tons of grade I races, but Saturday at Nad Al Sheba he will be gunning for his first win in the Dubai World Cup.
Pletcher, whose Harlan's Holiday
finished second in the 2003 World Cup, will saddle Magna Graduate in the $6-million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) and Host in the $5-million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I).
Magna Graduate runs in the colors of Cleveland, Ohio resident Betty Alexander. Host races for Eugene and Laura Melnyk.
Although Magna Graduate enters the race off a fourth-place finish, behind fellow World Cup starter Brass Hat, in the Donn Handicap (gr. I), his trainer said the son of Honor Grades needed the race and should be much more fit for this outing.
"He shipped in well and he's getting over the ground extremely well so we're hopeful he's going to run his best race," Pletcher said.
Magna Graduate ended 2005 with three straight stakes wins in the Pegasus Handicap (gr. III), which was contested under the lights, the Discovery Handicap (gr. III), and the Clark Handicap (gr. II), where he defeated older horses as a 3-year-old.
"His American form fits very well here," Pletcher said. "It looks like he might be a little bit of an outsider in the public's eye, but I think he'll be a shorter price at home."
Nicole Zitanti and Ramon Rangel bred Magna Graduate in Kentucky from the Fast Play mare Peacock Alley.
John Velazquez gets the call and the pair will break from post eight.
While Pletcher strongly believes Magna Graduate has what it takes to win the world's richest race, he knows Host will have to step up his game against 15 rivals, many of which are group I winners, including David Junior, Fields of Omagh, and Hat Trick.
The 5-year-old son of Hussonet has finished far back in his last three races, but with legitimate excuses.
In the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), he was steadied repeatedly. He then switched from turf to dirt in the Cigar Mile (gr. I). He was checked in the stretch of his seasonal debut, Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT), on a turf course the trainer considered to be hard.
"His last time out he didn't care for the ground," Pletcher said. "He's come back and has trained very well. He's adapted to the turf course here."
The trainer said he would like his runner to ake advantage of the long Nad Al Sheba stretch. Velazquez again gets the call and the pair will break from post seven.
Bred in Chile by Haras De Pirque, Host was produced from the Roy mare Colonna Traiana.