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Baffert reminisces how Sheikh Mohammed rescued him life in Dubai.

image: AFP

American Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert holds fond memories of the UAE, having clinched the prestigious $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates four times, a feat matched only by Saeed bin Suroor with nine victories. However, amidst these triumphs lies a poignant moment that remains etched in Baffert's memory.

In 2012, Baffert, accompanied by his horse Game On Dude, faced a life-threatening ordeal just days before the race. Stricken by a heart attack, he was swiftly transported to City Hospital where specialized medical intervention saved his life through emergency surgery.

Although Game On Dude didn't secure victory, Baffert emerged victorious in his personal battle, making a remarkable recovery. Reflecting on this pivotal moment, Baffert expressed gratitude towards Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, whose timely visit and well wishes buoyed his spirits during his hospitalization.

Baffert's admiration for Sheikh Mohammed extends beyond this singular incident, acknowledging his visionary leadership and profound impact on American racing. As one of the most successful trainers in American racing history, Baffert boasts an impressive record in the Dubai World Cup, securing victories with Silver Charm (1998), Captain Steve (2001), Arrogate (2017), and Country Grammer (2022). His latest contender, Newgate, vies for a fifth title under the guidance of long-time training partner Jimmy Barnes, as Baffert is unable to attend Meydan on March 30 due to staffing constraints.

Despite the absence, Baffert exudes confidence in Newgate's abilities, particularly under the skilled guidance of three-time Dubai World Cup-winning jockey Frankie Dettori. Assessing the competition, Baffert acknowledges the formidable lineup but remains optimistic about Newgate's chances, citing the horse's resilience and form.

Baffert reminisces about past victories in Dubai, singling out Arrogate's exceptional performance as a standout moment akin to Secretariat's legendary feats. He also recalls the thrill of winning with Silver Charm and Captain Steve, emphasizing the unique challenges and rewards of competing on the global stage.

Beyond his Dubai World Cup triumphs, Baffert's success extends to other prestigious races in Dubai, including the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) with Secret Circle in 2015. This year, he pins his hopes on Hopkins, aiming for redemption after a fourth-place finish last year.

Though Baffert's physical presence may be absent from Meydan Dubai World Cup day, his influence looms large, with Newgate poised to potentially seize victory under Dettori's masterful guidance.

March 20, 2024 3:17 p.m. 7737

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