Bob Baffert is sending two of his best workers overseas to make preparations for the 2018 Dubai World Cup, which will once again be valued at $10 million. Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity will return to Meydan for their third time each, and a thinned out field makes their chances of scoring a career-changing victory much higher. This is the first time in two years that the former Richest Horse Race in the World won’t feature a reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic champion.
“That’s the goal for Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity, for sure,” Baffert commented after witnessing Mugtaahij work :50 3/5 over a half mile at his home track in California on January 11th. “He went nice. I freshened him up a little bit, but he looked pretty good today.”
The seven-year-old Hoppertunity was originally purchased back in 2012 as a yearling for just $300,000 and has collected $4.37 million during his steady career. With a record of 7-7-5 over 29 starts, he has only won two races and both were the 2017 and 2016 renditions of the San Antonio Stakes. He is the epitome of a workhorse, and has performed admirably in the Dubai World Cup by placing 3rd in 2016 behind California Chrome and 6th in 2017 well behind Arrogate and Gun Runner.
Between the two 2018 Dubai World Cup hopefuls, Mubtaahij is a better take. The six-year-old horse most recently took 3rd in the 2017 Native Diver Handicap after running 8th in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He placed 2nd in the 2016 renewal of the Dubai World Cup and returned last year to finish a respectable 4th. In 20 starts he has a record of 5-4-2 and just over $4.6 million in earnings after being purchased for a penny below $600,000 as a yearling by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
Baffert remains optimistic about Mubtahij ahead of the 2018 Dubai World Cup after a recent training session this week. “He looked good today, and he’s put some weight back on. He needed a freshening, ” Baffert said. The trainer continued by discussing that Mubtaahij ended 2017 on a sour note in the Native Diver Handicap. “That wasn’t him. He came back and ran a huge race of the layoff in the Awesome Again, then ran in the Breeders’ Cup and it was probably too much for him.”
The added rest is sure to make the older horse a sturdy outsider in the second biggest horse race of the year. Whether or not either will be able to compete with probable entrants like Sharp Azteca and War Story will depend largely on how the 2018 Pegasus World Cup plays out. It’s not unlikely that other big names like Collected and West Coast make the trip overseas. But if there was ever a year for Mubtaahij to produce a big win in the Dubai World Cup, this does feel like the best opportunity for him. No offence to Hoppertunity, of course.