It was a fourth victory in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup for for both trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Frankie Dettori, with the latter timing his ride to perfection aboard the game Country Grammer. The Saudi Cup runner-up hunted down longtime leader Life Is Good in the final furlong of the 2000-metre dirt contest to win by a length and three-quarters.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Life Is Good set the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr., with Steve Asmussen’s charge Midnight Bourbon taking close orders. Turning for home, Ortiz Jr asked Life Is Good for an extra effort and started to kick clear. However, Country Grammer was not finished, and with Dettori urging him along the straight, he took command as Life Is Good faded into fourth. The rallying Hot Rod Charlie claimed second for Doug O’Neill with Flavien Prat up, while Ryuji Okubo’s Chuwa Wizard, who was runner-up in last year’s race, was a further half-length behind in third.
Amr Zedan, co-owner of Country Grammar with WinStar Farm and Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, said: “I mean, I don’t have any voice left after that! It was a project – we picked the horse and he has come here in the care of the best trainer in the world in Bob Baffert. Deep down in my gut I knew we had a shot. I have huge respect for all the others, especially Life Is Good who I know intimately as he used to train with Country Grammar when he was with Baffert.”
Zedan continued: “This win reminds me of Medina Spirit. He was a champion and these horses are all heart. I hope Medina Spirit is reinstalled as the Kentucky Derby winner, God willing. I can’t believe I’m sitting here and my silks are here!
“I am just very thankful to the entire team and Frankie, who gave him a perfect ride. He is one of the best, if not the best. Results speak louder than words. A trainer of that calibre is bound to produce such results. I am just dedicating this race to him.”
Dubai World Cup Replay
Jimmy Barnes, assistant trainer to Bob Baffert, said: “It’s been a long trip, Frankie just rode him awesome. He couldn’t have done any better. The speed worked out just as we thought it would, he put him in a close enough spot that when he called upon him, he’s a true mile-and-a-quarter horse and it kicked in. I give a lot of credit to Bob Baffert for his ability to come back and perform, it’s what we do, we’re great off a lay-off. I’m just so excited. I was here when Arrogate won the Dubai World Cup, so this is my second with Bob and it is very, very special.”
Frankie Dettori, who first won the Dubai World Cup for Godolphin aboard the great Dubai Millennium in 2000, said: “I have equalled Jerry Bailey now. All my other three wins came on the Nad Al Sheba track so it’s nice to have a winner at Meydan.
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“When the draw came out, I had just wanted to put him on the fence. At the half-mile, I wasn’t able to keep on with the front two but in the end they came back to me. At the furlong pole, it was surreal as I knew I was going to win. It’s just unbelievable. It’s like a dream!”
Doug O’Neill, trainer of runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, said: “He had a great run and congratulations to Bob Baffert for getting his horse ready the way he did. We’re super proud, Leandro Mora and all the guys have been here the whole time and they’ve done a great job.
“We wanted to win of course but we’re super proud and mid-race we were thinking it just wasn’t Charlie’s day. He then re-engaged and got up for second so it was a great night.”
He continued: “These are one of the few times that you wish horses could talk. I think maybe blinkers might need to go back on – he broke okay but then when he got behind horses, maybe that was it. Flavien said he took the kickback pretty well though, so we’ll re-group and we’ll give him plenty of time now and we’ll huddle up and think of a game plan.”
Flavien Prat, rider of Hot Rod Charlie, added: “We broke well and I got myself into the rail. Then we were travelling really well down the far side and he then needed to dig in and we got a nice run down the lane.”
Yuga Kawada, rider of third-placed Chuwa Wizard, said: “It was a good place. He was second last year and this year he was third so it was a very strong race and a very good run. He’s matched last year’s performance today and we’re very happy.”