Arrogate, Gun Runner get in first workouts in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Arrogate worked about a half-mile Monday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai while preparing for the Dubai World Cup on Saturday night.

Trainer Bob Baffert arrived here Sunday night, got to the quarantine barn at about 4:30 a.m. Monday, and watched Arrogate go through his paces on a warm, windy morning at about 5. There is no official clocker at Meydan. Baffert said he timed Arrogate from the quarter pole to the finish in 25 seconds, and that Arrogate probably had worked a half-mile in about 50 seconds.

"We just had him go around there," Baffert said. "It wasn't much more than to just let him stretch his legs. He was just galloping around there. I just wanted to see how he was moving."

Dana Barnes worked Arrogate, took the long walk from the Meydan main track to the quarantine barn, got on Baffert's second World Cup runner, Hoppertunity, and took him to the track for his own modest half-mile work.

"Hopper, he did about the same thing," Baffert said. "He's doing really good."

Baffert's pair of World Cup runners will walk the shed row Tuesday and resume training Wednesday. Hoppertunity was here a year ago for the World Cup and seemed familiar with his surroundings from the time of his arrival last week. Arrogate "looked a little lost" in his first gallop at Meydan, Baffert said, but the trainer has praised the colt's cool demeanor, and Arrogate has settled in comfortably. Baffert said he has no plans to paddock-school Arrogate before Saturday's race.

In Dubai for the first time since 2012, Baffert was starkly reminded of just how long a trek it is to walk a horse in international quarantine up to the track to train.

"It's an hour and 15 minutes round trip, that walk," Baffert said. "It's not the travel here, but the hardest part about doing this is the walk to the track."

Gun Runner looks comfortable

Gun Runner, who could be the second betting choice in the World Cup, worked a half-mile in 49.80 early Monday at Meydan, according to Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.

Breezing solo under Carlos Rosas, Gun Runner went smoothly across the finishing post in an easy tune-up, having done the last of his major work March 11 at Fair Grounds before shipping to Dubai by way of Florida.

"We thought he got over the track beautifully," said Blasi, adding that Gun Runner would merely walk the shed row Tuesday. "We're really happy how he has taken the trip and settled in. He even took a little nap before lunch today, which is his everyday routine back home."

Gun Runner finished third in the 2016 Kentucky Derby but is a later-maturing horse whose fastest races were in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last fall and in the Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn, his lone start this year. Gun Runner's connections tried to start him in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup, but the entry was denied by Gulfstream Park over concerns regarding an outbreak of the equine herpesvirus this winter at Fair Grounds.

O'Brien sends in nine

Trainer Aidan O'Brien is a regular participant in the Dubai World Cup program - but not with as many horses as this year.

O'Brien's nine-strong team for Saturday's races is the largest he has ever sent to Dubai. The group was expected to arrive Tuesday from Ireland early enough that if all goes smoothly, they will clear quarantine in time to train Thursday.

The O'Brien nine are Highland Reel and Seventh Heaven in the $6 million Sheema Classic; Deauville, Cougar Mountain, and Long Island Sound in the $6 million Dubai Turf; Washington DC in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint; Kingfisher for the $1 million Gold Cup; and Lancaster Bomber and Spirit of Valor for the $1 million UAE Derby.

O'Brien has won the UAE Derby twice in the last five years, with Daddy Long Legs in 2012 and Lines of Battle in 2013. In 2011, his charge Master of Hounds finished second by a nose in the race. All three of those horses went on to race in the Kentucky Derby, where Master of Hounds was fifth, Daddy Long Legs 20th, and Lines of Battle seventh.

Of his two UAE Derby runners this year, Lancaster Bomber is far more accomplished, with runner-up finishes in the Group 1 Dewhurst and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf to finish his 2-year-old season. Having already been to America once, he seems in one way a natural candidate for the Derby should he run well Saturday. Lancaster Bomber is a brother to the high-class miler Excelebration.

But it is O'Brien's other horse, Spirit of Valor, who has the better dirt pedigree. A winner in 1 of 3 starts last year, Spirit of Valor is by War Front and out of the Grindstone mare Stone Hope, who produced Street Life, a stakes winner on dirt who finished fourth in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. Spirit of Valor is partially owned by Stonestreet Stables.