ARCADIA, Calif. — Bob Baffert is loading up on bullets to take on Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
He put another in the chamber on Saturday when Mubtaahij won the Grade 1, $300,690 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, giving him at least four potential starters in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
Baffert also has Arrogate, Collected, and West Coast pointing for the Classic, and Mubtaahij earned a free roll in the race through the Win and You’re In program. Baffert also trains Cupid, who was fourth in the Awesome Again, beaten two lengths.
“It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s a long ways off,” Baffert said. “I don’t want to jinx myself. They’re all in. They’re all being pointed for it unless they’re not training well.”
Mubtaahij was making his first start since finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March, and this was his first start since joining Baffert’s barn. He came into the race having lost 10 straight since capturing the United Arab Emirates Derby in March 2015 for Michael de Kock, but had performed admirably since on the international stage, in Dubai the past two years for de Kock and in New York last fall with Kiaran McLaughlin.
It was not until Tuesday, though, that Mubtaahij became a definite starter for the Awesome Again. A strong workout that morning convinced Baffert he was ready to go.
“He has the class. He’s always been a really good horse,” Baffert said. “He needed this. He got a little tired at the end.”
Mubtaahij ($8.20) took the lead at the top of the stretch, then had to turn away pacesetter Midnight Storm while staving off a determined, extended run from the late-running Win the Space, the race’s longest shot at 25-1. He won by 1 1/2 lengths over Midnight Storm, with Win the Space a head farther back in third.
Cupid, the 6-5 favorite, was fourth and was followed, in order, by Breaking Lucky, Curlin Rules, and Donworth.
Dortmund, as was reported Thursday, was scratched Saturday morning.
Mubtaahij was timed in 1:51.32 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track. The final furlong took 13.57 seconds.
Drayden Van Dyke, who has been getting more business from Baffert in recent weeks, picked up the mount.
For working horses in the morning, “I told him I’d throw him a bone,” Baffert said. “He got one with a little filet on it.”
The win was the fifth in 18 starts for Mubtaahij, 5, a son of Dubawi. He is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, who also has the Grade 1-winning mare Vale Dori with Baffert. Mubtaahij earned $180,000 and now has career earnings of $4,529,332.