Baffert’s Newgate Heading to $12Million Dubai World Cup

RTIP Alumni Bob Baffert

RTIP Alumni Bob Baffert

It’s magical! They’re taking off right now, how about that?!”

Bob Baffert is in relaxed mood in California as two of his horses speed down the runway, about to launch for Dubai. Newgate heads for the $12million Dubai World Cup and Hopkins for the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Despite success in the desert which has seen him win four Dubai World Cups so far, Baffert won’t be joining his horses on the trip.

“I love Dubai, I’d love to go but I’m shorthanded an assistant right now, so Jimmy [Barnes] is going, he’ll be there at the weekend, along with a rider and a groom.”

Barnes was also at the helm when Country Grammer won Baffert his most recent Dubai World Cup, in 2022. This time he takes charge of Newgate, who returns to action less than a month after winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 3rd.

“With Newgate I know I’m kind of back a little quick, but he’s a really hardy horse who carries a lot of flesh,” says Baffert. “He’s doing better now than he was going into the Big Cap when he was a little heavy. I really think he’s doing well.”

Newgate will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, who combined with Baffert on Country Grammer and who also has three other Dubai World Cups on his resume.

“The thing about Frankie Dettori is the great riders don’t need any instructions,” continues Baffert. “When the gate opens, they figure it out. The last thing on my mind is worrying about Frankie and what he’s going to do on the horse. My job is to make sure that the horse shows up.”

Baffert is under no illusions as to the strength of the $12million dollar race, which features defending champion Ushba Tesoro as well as Laurel River, who he trained to win the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar, before the six-year-old moved to Bhupat Seemar in Dubai.

“I’m running against one of my old horses [Laurel River]. He’s a really talented horse; a top calibre horse. They can all stay if they don’t go too fast early on.”

Is there any similarity between Newgate and Baffert’s four winners of the race? The answer is emphatic.

“Totally different. My other winners were in top form, coming off big races. Country Grammer was coming off a long layoff, ran in Saudi and he was just a true mile and a quarter horse. The ride that Frankie gave him was unbelievable. He beat Life Is Good who was a great horse but the distance got him a little bit.

“Arrogate was one of the greatest performances of any racehorses that I’ve ever trained – he was incredible. To me, it was like a Secretariat-like performance. What he did that night; not breaking, being last, coming around… Gun Runner was a great horse and he just catches him like it was an exercise gallop.

“Winning the first time with Silver Charm was just really exciting. It’s the only race that you lead your horse up there and you go ‘I think he’s doing well but I really don’t know. I hope he handles everything.’

“I remember Captain Steve; he was normally on the lead but he was four lengths off it and I thought ‘maybe he’s not running’ and then he came up and won it. It’s magical, it’s a challenge and I love challenges, but if you have a good horse and he’s ready, you can win it.”

Baffert also has a Dubai Golden Shaheen on his roll of honour, having won the $2million sprint with Secret Circle in 2015. His runner this year, Hopkins, was fourth to the re-opposing Sibelius 12 months ago.

“Hopkins ran well last year and I think he’s doing better this year,” says Baffert. “He always shows up; he’s big strong horse. I had him and another horse but I decided to go with him because he’s doing so well right now. When you go halfway across the world you have to make sure your horse is in top form because it’s a tough ship.”

Missing out on Dubai, where will he watch the action? Over a relaxed lunch with friends, perhaps? Not the case.

“I usually watch it in my barn at Santa Anita with all the grooms; we all huddle up to watch. It’s exciting when they run well. To win the Dubai World Cup, it’s just a thrill.”

Baffert’s love of Dubai is rooted in genuine emotion, understandably so.

“ Dubai – everytime I go, it changes. It’s so much fun – I’ve gone snow skiing there! It’s a working vacation.

“I have great memories because I had a heart attack there and Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] saved me. I have so much respect for Sheikh Mohammed and his family – he’s such a visionary guy and has been really good for American racing.

“I got a second chance; he sent a top guy [doctor] in there and he fixed me. There wouldn’t have been any Triple Crowns if he hadn’t saved me.”