Dubai World Cup: The race that was like a 'movie' returns

Story highlights

  • Baffert recalls Arrogate's "incredible" run
  • Champion racehorse Arrogate retired last year
  • $10M Dubai World Cup this weekend

(CNN)Dead last after 100 meters, Arrogate's $6 million gamble seemed all but over.

As trainer Bob Baffert watched his horse slip to the back of the pack at last year's Dubai World Cup, his heart sank.
He had gone to great lengths convincing Saudi Arabian owner Prince Khalid bin Abdullah to take the American thoroughbred halfway across the world for a shot at the bumper first prize.
    The plan, it seemed, was going to fail.
    But then the comeback started. And it didn't stop. With 200 meters to go, Arrogate powered past the formidable Gun Runner to triumph.
    A year on from that night in Dubai, Baffert still can't believe it.
    "I think at the time I'd never witnessed anything like that since I've been training," Baffert, who trained the Juddmonte Farm-owned Arrogate until the horse retired last year, tells CNN.
    "A lot of people saw that race, it was pretty incredible what he did -- you only see that in movies, where they're way last and then they come around and circle the field.
    "And he ran down a courageous horse in Gun Runner -- we know how good he is. If someone asked what's the greatest race you've ever witnessed? ... it would be Arrogate winning Dubai."

    Horse of a lifetime

    Baffert's trophy cabinet is extensive, with victories in 12 American Classics and three Dubai World Cups. He also trained American Pharaoh to win the first Triple Crown for 37 years in 2015.
    Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate won the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Travers Stakes, the inaugural Pegasus World Cup -- the world's richest race, then with a purse of $12M -- and that final victory in Dubai, which Baffert calls Arrogate's "mic drop race." Arrogate was retired last year following three defeats in the US.
    It was a career that saw the colt become the highest-earning racehorse ever with more than $17 million in prize money. He also scooped the Longines World's Best Racehorse award twice in 2016 and 2017.
    "I don't know if I'll ever have a horse like that again in my lifetime," says Baffert.
    "He ran some really demanding races on dirt. What he did in Dubai was pretty incredible ... He just spoiled us rotten."

    The $10M World Cup returns

    While Arrogate starts his career at stud in Kentucky, the Dubai World Cup returns.
    Billed as the world's richest day of racing with a total of $30 million up for grabs, this year's event at Meydan Racecourse takes place on March 31.
    The purse for the showpiece World Cup is $10 million with the winner pocketing $6 million. It's the world's second richest race behind the Pegasus World Cup, which this year bumped up its purse to $16 million.
    Smith will ride the mare Forever Unbridled, which last year recovered from a bone chip to score three consecutive victories in the US.
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    'Excited'

    "Her last few races have really been tremendous," says Smith. "She's running the kind of races where she can definitely compete with the boys. She's a big filly, too, and pretty much as big as the boys she'll be running against.
    "The mile-and-a-quarter is something she should really like. I'm just really blessed to get the opportunity.
    "I love Dubai and the experience there. Last year, with the fashion in which Arrogate won, that made it all the more special. Hopefully we can repeat."
    The race means Smith and Forever Unbridled go up against the Baffert-trained West Coast, which Smith rode to victory at the Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby last year.
    Ridden by Javier Castellano, West Coast is viewed by many as the horse to beat.
    "He'll be the favorite and we have to have a successful trip to beat him," said Smith.
    "If there's someone in the race who can upset the applecart, it's Forever Unbridled and I'm excited about it."
    And if 2018's spectacle is even half as exciting as last year's, then entertainment is certainly guaranteed.