Dubai World Cup set for $10M purse
March 20, 2018 3:07 AM
by Jon Lindo
The Dubai World Cup held over the dirt surface at Meydan City on March 31 is the second richest race in the world with a purse of $10 million. Only the Pegasus World Invitational at Gulfstream Park in January (at $16 million) has a bigger purse.
Compare that to the $600,000 purse offered for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 10, and you can understand why most of the major players in the older handicap ranks in Southern California have opted for the Dubai World Cup.
The late-developing West Coast, trained by Bob Baffert, emerged as the top 3-year-old of 2017 based on his win in the Travers at Saratoga and his good runner-up effort to older champion Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Baffert skipped the Santa Anita Handicap at his home track and West Coast has trained in spectacular fashion for his 2018 debut.
West Coast will be joined by older stablemate Mubtaahij, who has plenty of experience at Meydan City. He finished 2nd in the Dubai World Cup in 2016 and returned in 2017 to finish fourth behind Arrogate and Gun Runner. Mubtaahij finished a distant second in the Santa Anita Handicap, run over a sloppy track March 10.
Trainer Doug O’Neill skipped the Big ‘Cap and will go to Dubai with Pavel, who had a nightmare trip finishing fourth in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita Feb. 3. Pavel has yet to win a Grade I event but is lightly-raced and his best races may be ahead of him.
Also expected to compete on the Dubai World Cup card is 2017 Eclipse award champion sprinter Roy H. The Peter Miller trainee was a late defection on the time of entry for the Grade I $400,000 Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita March 10 and his connections have opted for the $1 million Golden Shaheen on the Dubai World Cup undercard.
The SoCal horses expected to compete on Dubai World Cup evening March 31 fly out from California on Tuesday (March 20).
It won’t be business as usual for trainer Peter Miller after he saddles Roy H in the Grade I Golden Shaheen on March 31. His long string of confrontations with the stewards in SoCal took another turn last weekend.
In a ruling issued last Sunday, Miller has been suspended seven days (April 2-8), fined $2,500, placed on probation for the term of his current license through October 2019, and must undergo anger-management education through the Winner’s Foundation for disorderly conduct related to “aggressive/abusive behavior – derogatory words about licensee’s unborn baby.”
Neither Miller nor his attorney showed up for a hearing last Monday. Steward Scott Chaney said, “We had four witnesses. What we were told was really ugly.”
The ruling said it was Miller’s seventh offense for disorderly conduct that involved disobedience toward racing officials, security, and an altercation with a veterinarian.
The licensee was seven months pregnant at the time of the incident and had once been employed by Miller.
Miller told the Paulick Report, “I apologized to her and she apologized to me. I also bought her a baby stroller. She dropped the complaint and the stewards continued with it after we made peace. This is more the stewards trying to get me than anything else.”
Early posts failing
Santa Anita changed their first post times starting with Daylight Savings Time Sunday, March 11 to noon each Thursday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. on weekdays.
Are the changes having a positive effect? Right now the answer is “no.”
Sure, there have been mitigating circumstances such as poor weather and reduced field sizes, and it would be unfair to compare last weekend to the previous Santa Anita Handicap weekend when there was an 11-race card. There were nine races on Friday, March 9 as compared to eight races on Friday, March 16, so it may be best to compare the figures from the last two Thursdays at Santa Anita.
On March 15, on-track handle was down 24% from the previous Thursday. Interstate handle was down 22.9%, out-of-state handle down 30.5%, and overall handle was down 29% over the same day the previous week.
After getting off to a strong start, regular handle deficits, starting with March 11, could have a big impact on the success of the entire meet. The theory behind the post time change was to increase handle from the east coast while those cards are still running. If it comes at the cost of handle on track, where a higher percentage of each wagering dollar is kept by the track, the positives don’t seem to outweigh the negatives.
As a California horse owner, purses are generated by handle. When you see the purses currently offered at places like Oaklawn Park, any negative hit to the purse structure in SoCal could result in more horses leaving the state.
With trainers like Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill ready to set up second strings in Kentucky during the spring, field sizes are already a concern. Here’s hoping Santa Anita track execs can make adjustments on the post time “experiment” as deemed necessary sooner rather than later.
Play of the Week
Santa Anita, Friday Race 3, Extraordianrius (#7). The full brother to California Chrome – Faversham – figures to take the bulk of the wagering in here, but this Tampa Bay Downs shipper exits a strong race, is bred for dirt, and the sharp Vladimir Cerin stable goes for the purse shipping bonus.