23 February 2024

Dutrow bullish about Saudi Cup favourite White Abarrio

23 February 2024

White Abarrio is carrying maximum stable confidence into the $20million Saudi Cup at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday.

The striking grey was last seen winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November, making it two Grade Ones in three starts for Rick Dutrow since moving from Saffie Joseph.

And Dutrow – who has returned to the big-race limelight after enduring a 10-year suspension imposed for medication and administration violations that forced him to build again from scratch – sees the world’s most valuable race as tailor-made for his charge, who will again be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.

“All the work has been done with him and he’s in a zone that I wish every horse that ever lived was in that kind of zone,” said Dutrow.

“We just made a couple of minor adjustments with him (after he switched yards), they just happened to work out really well.

“I think the glue-on shoes sealed the deal for him. We did that after his Met Mile run, we knew we needed to make some kind of changes with his front feet, because he wasn’t level, wasn’t even.

“He ran a big race that day (Met Mile, third), we were extremely happy with how he finished his race. Then we went with the glue-ons, then we knew we were training better. The riders could just feel he was better.

“I feel if he is on his game and runs his race, he is going to be tough to beat.

“This race, a mile and an eighth (nine furlongs), around one turn…I feel as if he were to wake up in the morning and we were to ask him, ‘Hey babe, what do you wanna do for a $20million race?’, he’d say, ‘Make it a mile and an eighth around one turn’.”

Dutrow stressed he was “all in” on the Saudi Cup – but would love to go on from Riyadh to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup.

“We’re so excited to do something like that, but it’s going to be up to him. I want him to have an easy race here – I shouldn’t be saying that, because there’s so many good horses here. How are we expecting to have an easy race?” Dutrow said.

“We have a really good horse and he is on it, that’s what I’m hoping for. We’ll have a little chat with Irad, our main goal is to win and our second main goal is to save horse for his next race. If we can get those things done, we’re going to be excited going to Dubai.”

The five-year-old drew stall two at the post-position ceremony on Wednesday, with that doing little to dent confidence.

“He had the two-hole (in the Classic) last time, this can’t be a problem,” Dutrow said. “We’ve got the best rider, one of the best horses. It’ll be fun. We’ll be ready. He really takes my breath away every time I see him.”

Leading the opposition is the Hidetaka Otonashi-trained Derma Sotogake for Japan – just a length adrift of White Abarrio when second in the Classic.

He reportedly suffered a minor injury scare on the flight over, but rider Christophe Lemaire is happy with what he has seen.

“The horse has got more mature, stronger, I think. He looks happy here, so I’m very confident,” he said.

“He was still young last year as a three-year-old, as a four-year-old he’ll get better and better. He didn’t run much last year, of course they were tough races, but he’s the kind of horse who keeps himself safe, he still has many things to show us.

“The field will be very strong, but he’s a tough horse, he’s able to jump well from the gates and take a position, he can keep a strong pace.”

Otonashi said: “The accident during the flight is the only concern but we did everything we could have done. He is in good form.”

Bob Baffert has yet to win the race but has come close, with Charlatan the length runner-up to the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mishriff in 2021, while Country Grammer was half a length down on Emblem Road in 2022 and three-parts of a length second to Panthalassa 12 months ago, when ridden by Frankie Dettori.

His runner this time is National Treasure, winner of last year’s Preakness and second in the Dirt Mile at the Breeders’ Cup, before reappearing in the Pegasus World Cup, holding on to score from Senor Buscador, who reopposes for Todd Fincher.

Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes said: “He has matured into a fine horse. He likes to be on the pace, that’s clear, but he was able to back off a little when he won the Pegasus last month.

“If there is a speed battle in this race, we feel he will still be able to get the right trip under a strong rider (Flavien Prat).

“He has a good post to work from in seven. This is our fifth runner in this race, we have been second three times, so we are hoping to make the breakthrough.”

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