Mubtaahij's last start was a fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March

Mubtaahij's last start was a fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March

Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher

Baffert Brings Cupid, Mubtaahij to Awesome Again

Arrogate and Collected may not be entered, but trainer still has formidable duo.

Trainer Bob Baffert may not have a royal flush for the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (G1), but that doesn't mean he won't have a winning hand Sept. 30 at Santa Anita Park.

Until recently Baffert was only planning on running the Coolmore-owned Cupid  in the 1 1/8-mile test. The 4-year-old Tapit  colt earned his first grade 1 in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Sakes May 27, then returned from a layoff to win the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 23, when he likely wasn't 100% cranked.

But the last two weeks of training changed the Hall of Fame conditioner's mind. Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's Mubtaahij, who has been logging timed workouts for Baffert since early July, simply began training too well to not to go.

BALAN: Mubtaahij Moves to Baffert Barn in Southern California

So, while stablemates Arrogate  and Collected will train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) instead of prepping in the Awesome Again, Baffert still has a formidable pair with top-level experience set for Saturday.

"He's not super cranked up, but he's got a lot of class," Baffert said of Mubtaahij, an Irish-bred son of Dubawi who has mainly raced in Dubai—where he won the 2015 UAE Derby Sponsored By Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) and ran second in the 2016 Dubai World Cup Sponsored By Emirates Airline (G1). He's made two trips to the U.S., but has yet to win in five starts. "There's no Collecteds or Arrogates in there. Actually, the way Arrogate worked yesterday, I could probably throw him in there. I won't, but I could.

"(It's about) how they're doing. Two weeks ago I would have never thought Mubtaahij would be running. But he had a nice gate work and then came back and worked well—pretty easy. I could wait for another race, but he needs a mile and an eighth and he's really healthy."

A ghost from Baffert's past is also entered in the Awesome Again, and he'll be making his first start since an announced retirement in April. Kaleem Shah's two-time grade 1 winner Dortmund  was turned out then brought back to the barn of trainer Art Sherman, and returned to training in July. Although Sherman admits he'd like a shorter—and softer—spot for the massive chestnut, those options aren't readily available locally this time of year.

Under the supervision of assistant trainer Alan Sherman Sept. 27, the son of Big Brown  logged his final workout (three furlongs in :37 2/5) in preparation for the Awesome Again under jockey Gary Stevens.

"Soundness-wise, he's better than ever," Alan Sherman said. "I'm really happy with the way he's coming back. He needed a little time off, he got it, and he came back really good. It's never easy (returning from a layoff in a grade 1), but what are your options? I wish they had a mile race—maybe a prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1)—but it is what it is. You've got to take what you get."

Stevens also acknowledged the challenges for Dortmund, but is optimistic he can overcome them. The Hall of Fame rider has been aboard Dortmund twice in his 16-race career, a 4 1/2-length victory in the 2015 Native Diver Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita and a half-length second to California Chrome  in the 2016 San Diego Handicap (G2). He's also been in the irons for Dortmund's last three workouts.

"Good horses can do it," Stevens said of the comeback from retirement. "He hadn't had a rest for a long time, so it was probably a break he needed. He's training with a lot of enthusiasm. He was tough to pull up."

Multiple graded winner Midnight Storm  returns to dirt after his fourth-place run in the Del Mar Handicap (G2T) last time out.

Breaking Lucky is the lone out-of-towner in the field. The Reade Baker-trained son of Lookin At Lucky  has yet to win a graded race in seven tries on dirt, but has placed in four—second-place runs in the 2016 Clark Handicap (G1) and 2017 New Orleans Handicap (G2), and back-to-back thirds in the June 17 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) and the Aug. 5 Whitney Stakes (G1). Breaking Lucky's lone graded win came in the 2016 Seagram Cup (G3) on the Woodbine synthetic main track, but his one dirt win did come in stakes company in the 2015 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.

Completing the field is multiple grade 1-placed Win the Space and two-time allowance winner Curlin Rules, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Cupid in the Brubaker last time out.

Entries: Awesome Again S. (G1)

Santa Anita Park, Saturday, September 30, 2017, Race 10

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $300,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:05 PM (local)
11Win the Space (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoseph Talamo122George Papaprodromou15/1
22Dortmund (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateGary L. Stevens122Art Sherman8/1
33Midnight Storm (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTyler Baze122Philip D'Amato3/1
44Curlin Rules (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlavien Prat122John W. Sadler6/1
55Breaking Lucky (ON)Keeneland Sales GraduateMike E. Smith122Reade Baker5/1
66Mubtaahij (IRE)Drayden Van Dyke122Bob Baffert4/1
77Donworth (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill6/1
88Cupid (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRafael Bejarano126Bob Baffert2/1