Country Grammer captures Dubai World Cup for coach Bob Baffert


Connections are celebrating on Saturday after Country Grammer won the Dubai World Cup. Photo courtesy of Dubai Racing Club

March 26 (UPI) — It was an exact American finish in Saturday’s $12million Group 1 Dubai World Cup, with Country Grammer posting the upset victory for beleaguered coach Bob Baffert while favorite Life Is Good found the 1 1/4 miles just a tad too far.

The race also had an international twist, as Italian-born Frankie Dettori led Country Grammer to the spectacular score over runner-up Hot Rod Charlie and one of Japan’s top dirt racers, Chuwa Wizard, was about to take third place.

The Americans Life is Good and Midnight Bourbon settled for fourth and fifth place.

Life Is Good, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in Del Mar on its last start, led the way in the World Cup stretch and searched the world for the winner. But, on his first try beyond 1 1/8 miles, he shortened his stride just past the mid-stretch.

Country Grammer was rolling on the outside at the time, took the lead 100 yards out and won by 1 1/4 in length. Hot Rod Charlie, who looked halfway finished, found another gear and edged out Chuwa Wizard for third place. Life Is Good ended up 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

Country Grammer came to Dubai after an agonizing second-place finish in the $20m Saudi Arabian Cup a month earlier in Riyadh, caught near the finish by a long-distance local runner

Emblem road. Before that, he had been inactive for nearly nine months.

It was the fourth World Cup win for Dettori and Baffert, who is embroiled in legal and regulatory lawsuits in the United States that have forced him to surrender some of his top horses, including Kentucky Derby hopefuls. , to other coaches. Still, winning co-owner Amr Zedan sang Baffert’s praises.

“He came here under the care of the best coach in the world, Bob Baffert,” Zedan said. “Deep down I knew we had a chance. … Results speak louder than words. A coach of this caliber is bound to deliver such results. I dedicate this run to him.”

Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, who is co-owner of Country Grammer and Life Is Good, said no firm plans were in place for Country Grammer.

“We’re going to regroup with Bob,” he said. “Bob Baffert is one hell of a horse trainer.”

Hot Rod Charlie trainer Doug O’Neill said his colt “had a great run and congratulations to Bob Baffert for grooming his horse the way he did. We’re super proud, [assistant] 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 halfway through the race we thought it just wasn’t Charlie’s day. He then re-engaged and got up for second place, so it was a great night.”

The World Cup capped off a night that saw Japanese riders win five of eight thoroughbred races on the card, including the Grade II United Arab Emirates Derby and a turf-tying victory of Dubai grade I.

The Derby win earned Crown Pride 100 points in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” standings, securing it a place in the Churchill Downs starting gate should its owner choose to go. He is one of 312 3-year-olds nominated for the Triple Crown series.

“I want to go to the Kentucky Derby,” coach Koichi Shintani said. “I just have to convince the owners to do it.”

Saudi Derby winner Pinehurst, also trained by Baffert, was the favorite in the United Arab Emirates Derby but passed out on his way home and was relieved.

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