Trainer Bob Baffert knows exactly what it takes to prepare the winner of the Dubai World Cup, having already achieved the feat three times courtesy of Silver Charm in 1998, Captain Steve in 2001 and last year's spectacular last-to-first victor Arrogate. Doubly represented this year through West Coast and Mubtaahij, the chances are that he will be welcoming back a fourth winner of the contest, with the former likely to go off a short-priced favourite in a field that doesn't look the strongest. An impressive winner of both the Travers at Saratoga and the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx last year, West Coast was far from disgraced in finishing third to Gun Runner in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar. He then showed improved form, posting a top-class effort in fact, in chasing home that rival once more in the Pegasus at Gulfstream in January, pulling well clear of the third, Gunnevera, who faces up to him once more in this contest.
However, having already tipped West Coast in our Dubai Carnival preview piece a few months ago when he was available at around 4/1, there is no real compulsion to get involved again at cramped odds, so the onus is on finding one at a bigger price who can perhaps fill out the forecast or at least represent a decent each-way shout. The aforementioned Gunnevera would have been tempting at a double-figure price, but a late scare with a bruised foot during training this week makes him a somewhat risky proposition.
Of the other US representatives, the mare Forever Unbridled brings strong form into the race, albeit against her own sex. A telling burst on the home turn was enough to land her the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November, holding on by half a length from Abel Tasman. As good as that form is, though, she would need to improve a little to have a genuine chance of winning, although a place isn't out of the question. Pavel has flattered to deceive in his career so far, although his latest effort is best forgiven when encountering plenty of trouble in the home straight. He also finished well beaten in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
It could well be that Baffert himself possesses the main danger to West Coast, Mubtaahij having already proven his liking for the Meydan track, winning four times and running well in two World Cups, deceptively so when fourth last year from a wide draw. He hasn't set the world alight in his US career in general, but has performed consistently, and proven course form could well be a big factor. He looks overpriced at around 20/1 on what he has previously achieved at Meydan.
Of the locals, there is little between North America and Thunder Snow, their three meetings this year resulting in one win each. North America benefited from an easy lead on a track that was very much favouring those up with the pace last time, drawing away for an easy win from his old rival. Drawn well to attack here, if the track plays in the same vein he will take plenty of pegging back. Conversely, Thunder Snow hasn't fared well with the draw, posted widest of all, and for one that looks to tolerate dirt rather than relish it, that may not be ideal.
The wild card in the race is undoubtedly Andre Fabre's Breeders' Cup Turf winner Talismanic. That victory was followed by a good second to Highland Reel in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, and if Talismanic could reproduce the form of either of those races he would be a threat to all. A warm-up win on polytrack at Chantilly last time should have put him spot-on for this challenge. Obviously, the big imponderable is the surface, and for all that Talismanic is by a dirt sire, he has never really struck as the type who would be ideally suited by it. That's not to say his master trainer isn't capable of pulling this particular rabbit out of the hat, but his current odds don't look to represent any sort of value.