Country Grammer goes for his second Grade 1 Dubai World Cup win when he competes at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday. As tempting as it sounds to side with one of the Japanese horses such as the Saudi Cup champion Panthalassa or even the locally based Algiers, who brings sharp form, Country Grammer should prevail for three key reasons.
For one, Country Grammer loves 10-furlong races. Last year, he ran second in the nine-furlong Saudi Cup (G1) before capturing the Dubai World Cup. Part of the reason Country Grammer won the latter race is because of his stamina and the favorite Life Is Good’s lack of stamina as they hit the stretch run.
This year, Country Grammer finished second in the Saudi Cup again. Note how strongly he closed as the other horses stalled late.
Not every horse who closes strongly wants more ground. But in this instance, Country Grammer gave the impression he needed 10 furlongs.
Forget about his form under trainer Chad Brown and the 19 1/2-length margin in his runner-up finish to the invincible Flightline last September. In most normal editions of the Pacific Classic (G1), Country Grammer would win with the effort shown in that race. Flightline went on to dominate the Breeders' Cup Classic before retiring.
Under trainer Bob Baffert, Country Grammer shows a 3: 2-1-0 record in 1 1/4-mile races. Besides the Dubai World Cup last year, he also won the 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), and his second in the 2022 Pacific Classic to Flightline gives him three races in the exacta at this distance after the transfer from Brown.
In addition, Country Grammer makes his second start off the bench, which means a step forward is logical. Remember, horses round into their best form in either their second or third start off the layoff, and Country Grammer already ran second in a $20 million race while losing by 3/4 of a length in his first start back. Now, Country Grammer should feel more fit in his return to Meydan with the Saudi race under his belt.
As for the third reason, none of the other contenders are very exciting.
Maybe Panthalassa can wire the field again in similar fashion to his Saudi Cup run. But Panthalassa barely held on against Country Grammer, and now that opponent gets his favored distance in their rematch.
According to overseas markets, Algiers has been the clear second choice in wagering after his sharp local wins in Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 and Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2. He won those Grade 2 races by clear margins. Yet, how many times do horses dominate the local Al Maktoum Challenge races before finding the Dubai World Cup difficult? The class jump to this race is steep.
For example, Capezzano won the 2019 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) by an amazing 9 1/2 lengths over Thunder Snow, who probably needed the race as a warmup for the Dubai World Cup. Thunder Snow ended up capturing the Dubai World Cup, while Capezzano finished last in the big race.
Those Al Maktoum Challenge races almost feel like a desert mirage. From a visual standpoint, the wins seem great because the horses typically spread out toward the end and make the winner seem ready to tackle the Dubai World Cup. But in reality, either he beats a weak field or faces a few good horses who are only warming up for the big prize, such as Thunder Snow.
Who else can win? Besides Panthalassa, the other main Japanese horses include Café Pharoah, T O Keynes, Crown Pride and Jun Light Bolt. One or two of them might get into the picture with their usual moves, but Country Grammer outran most of them in Saudi and should do the same in Dubai.
Ushba Tesoro has been riding a two-race win streak in Japan. In his most recent start, he took the Kawasaki Kinen, a local Grade 1 over there, by half a length over T O Keynes. Until he runs this weekend, it is hard to rate him against an international field. He probably does not pose a threat.
Country Grammer might not seem exciting to pick. Regardless, this 6-year-old horse trained by Bob Baffert has the best chance to win.