Mubtaahij at Del Mar ahead of the Breeders' Cup in November

Mubtaahij at Del Mar ahead of the Breeders' Cup in November

Anne M. Eberhardt

Mubtaahij to Get Dubai World Cup Prep in San Pasqual

Son of Dubawi will have to contend with graded winners Accelerate and Pavel.

While two other Bob Baffert-trained hopefuls will take different routes to a possible start in the March 31 Dubai World Cup (G1), the local hope of the trio, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's Mubtaahij, will get his audition for the $10 million race in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes (G2) Feb. 3 at Santa Anita Park.

Although Baffert admitted the 6-year-old son of Dubawi needed a freshening following a series of three races late in 2017, after he moved to Southern California from Mike de Kock's barn in Dubai, the Hall of Fame trainer has been encouraged by the bay's recent works and is hopeful Mubtaahij will get his third try at World Cup glory (he finished second in 2016 and fourth in 2017).

"Hopefully," Baffert said, in response to a question of whether the 1 1/8-mile San Pasqual would serve as a prep for a trip to Dubai for the 2017 Awesome Again (G1) winner, who finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and third in the Native Diver (G3) to close his season. "He's been working well for this race. We'll just have to see."

With West Coast back at Santa Anita following his second-place run to Gun Runner  in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1), fellow Baffert-trained Dubai World Cup hopeful Hoppertunity was under consideration for a prep in the San Pasqual until a foot abscess forced a pause in his training. Hoppertunity also has experience traveling to the United Arab Emirates, as he finished third in the 2016 Dubai World Cup and sixth in 2017.

"I've been getting a few with foot issues lately and he popped a little abscess, and I had to miss a couple days here with him," Baffert said. "He came out of it and he looks good now ... but when they have that, it's just too close to the race. I just don't think he would have performed well. ... I'd like to take him back to Dubai. I'll have to find another prep for him or something."

Other graded winners entered in the San Pasqual with an opportunity to gain a foothold in the handicap division now vacated by Gun Runner is Native Diver winner Prime Attraction, TVG San Diego Handicap (G2) victor Accelerate, and Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) winner Pavel.

Hronis Racing's Accelerate, who stunned the racing world with an upset victory over Arrogate  in the San Diego, hasn't won since that summer afternoon at Del Mar. He placed third behind the Baffert-trained pair of Arrogate and Collected in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (G1), ran ninth after a troubled start in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and edged Collected for second in the Dec. 26 San Antonio (G2).

The San Antonio featured a dawdling pace set by winner Giant Expectations, however, and trainer John Sadler was encouraged by Accelerate's performance in context.

"He's doing really well and had a good race the other day," Sadler said. "He came out of the Breeder's Cup with a quarter crack, we got over that, and then (the San Antonio) was a strange race. It was a strange race, but the horses in there—there's no doubt about them. They're good horses and he didn't let Collected by.

"We want to be up in the race, though, and if it's a (slow) pace, we'd like to be out front by three lengths."

For Reddam Racing's Pavel—who impressed against fellow 3-year-olds in the Smarty Jones at Parx Racing and then followed that effort with a hard-trying, third-place run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park against older rivals before he finished off the board in the Breeders' Cup Classic (10th) and grade 1 Malibu (fourth)—the San Pasqual is an early test to see just what might be possible for his 4-year-old campaign.

"He's training well and he's ready to run, so this race suits him," said Pavel's trainer, Doug O'Neill. "We'll know more after the race, but we think he's going to have a big year. The ones that (thrive from 3 to 4) maintain their weight and you can see them mature. He's done all that and physically looks as good as he ever has."

And is a trip to Dubai being considered for the Creative Cause  colt?

"One race at a time," O'Neill said. "But if we're thinking about that after Saturday, it'll be a good sign."

Alicia Wincze Hughes contributed to this report

Entries: San Pasqual S. (G2)

Santa Anita Park, Saturday, February 03, 2018, Race 8

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 4:10 PM (local)
11Pavel (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill4/1
22Mubtaahij (IRE)Drayden Van Dyke124Bob Baffert7/2
33Accelerate (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateVictor Espinoza122John W. Sadler4/1
44Win the Space (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRajiv Maragh120George Papaprodromou20/1
55The Lieutenant (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlavien Prat120Michael W. McCarthy20/1
66Ike Walker (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRafael Bejarano120Jerry Hollendorfer20/1
77Irish Freedom (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMike E. Smith120Bob Baffert6/1
88Prime Attraction (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTiago Josue Pereira122James M. Cassidy6/1
99Top of the Game (KY)Kent J. Desormeaux120Vladimir Cerin3/1