Run as a dirt race for the first 14 editions, it was commonplace to see American trained horses do well in the Dubai World Cup. Among the winners were big names like Cigar, Silver Charm, and Curlin, who scored some of the most important victories of their illustrious careers at Nad Al Sheba. When the rich race was moved over to Meydan, and their Tapeta racing surface, U.S. horses were suddenly at a disadvantage, with only the versatile Animal Kingdom able to win one for America. Changed once again to dirt three years ago, our horses have been a major beneficiary. After a runner-up finish the year before, California Chrome was much the best in 2016, and last year, the U.S. finished 1-2-3 with Arrogate, Gun Runner, and Neolithic. Once again our prospects are looking strong for 2018.
First, and foremost, we have our Champion 3yo Male of 2017, West Coast. He is primed to be the horse everyone will have to beat in Dubai. The son of Flatter, trained by the three-time winner of the Dubai World Cup, Bob Baffert, has won four stakes in the last nine months, including an impressive victory in the 10 furlong Travers. He’s also failed to finish first or second only once in his career, and that came when third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Gun Runner. Most recently, West Coast finished an excellent second behind Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup. While West Coast will be the one to beat on March 31, his toughest competition may well come in the form of an American female runner.
Forever Unbridled was always a nice horse, but much like we saw from the 2017 Horse of the Year, Gun Runner, she only improves with age. The six-year-old bay mare finished in the money in three consecutive stakes in New Orleans early in her career, and has consistently improved in the three years since. A Grade 1 winner at three, a two-time Grade 1 winner at four, last year, at the age of five, the Charles Fipke homebred completed an undefeated season with graded stakes wins at Churchill Downs and Saratoga, where she beat Songbird, before clinching a championship in California.
When last seen the daughter of Unbridled’s Song and Lemons Forever came home triumphant in the biggest race of her life in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff three months ago at Del Mar.
Away from the races since that big win, the five-time Grade 1 winner has been preparing for her big test in Dubai at Fair Grounds, and has been working extremely well. Last Friday, Forever Unbridled worked a sparkling 6 furlongs in 1:12.40. Speaking of his champion stable star, trainer Dallas Stewart exudes confidence in what will be her first try against the boys, calling the last work “excellent”, the veteran trainer says she is as good a horse as he’s ever been around.
As good as she has become, history tells us that no female has ever won the Dubai World Cup. Clearly, Forever Unbridled will need to be at her absolute best to beat West Coast and the rest, but the winner of 8-of-17 starts lifetime, and $3,186,880, has never been better than she is right now.
Besides West Coast and Forever Unbridled, American-trained horses should be well represented in the Dubai World Cup. Other big names likely to make the trip include Gunnevera, who rallied for third last time in the Pegasus World Cup, as well as Meydan veterans and former Dubai World Cup board hitters, Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity.
If somehow the American contingent is to be upset in this year’s Dubai World Cup, the list of international contenders is led by Thunder Snow, Talismanic, the hero of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, North America and Heavy Metal. Here is Thunder Snow edging North America in the recent Al Maktoun Challenge Round 2 …
Photo of Forever Unbridled courtesy of Coady Photography