Globe-trotting Mubtaahij, a group 2 winner in Dubai, finally broke through at the highest level after chasing some of America’s best. After making a bold move in the final turn of the Grade 1 Awesome Again, the bay Irish bred found his best stride in the stretch to put away a talented duo late.
Midnight Storm was fastest away and took up the pace-setting position. It took the others a while to sort themselves out, but finally Donworth settled into second with Curlin Rules third, both right to Midnight Storm’s outside, and favored Cupid fourth. Then came Breaking Lucky and Mubtaahij, and it was a long way back to Win the Space in last.
They continued on in that order down the back stretch in easy fashion. The splits were sensible; :23.20 for the first quarter and :47.06 for the opening half. As they hit the three-quarter mark in 1:11.56, the race really began to take shape.
From the back of the field, Mubtaahij got to work putting away rivals, moving up into fourth behind Cupid, who had taken over third. As they turned for home, Breaking Lucky was trying to get involved while Win the Space finally got his motor warmed up and gunning for the leaders from the very tail of the field.
At the top of the stretch, any of a number of runners were in with a shot. Midnight Storm continued on gamely on the rail, but Cupid, Mubtaahij, and Win the Space were coming for him. Inside the final sixteenth, Mubtaahij put away his rivals for good, moving clear by 1 ½-lengths at the wire. Pace-setting Midnight Storm saved second by a head, and Win the Space got up for third. Cupid had to settle for fourth, followed by Breaking Lucky, Curlin Rules, and Donworth. The winning time was 1:51.32 for 9 furlongs over Santa Anita’s fast main track.
“The trip was great. I was really keeping my eye on Cupid and taking my cue from him,” said winning jockey Drayden Van Dyke. “I was placed where I wanted to be and didn’t start asking him until late. But when I asked him, he responded.”
Tyler Baze and Joe Talamo both thought they had the winner in the stretch.
“I thought he was going to win the race. He gave me everything he had today,” Tyler Baze, who was aboard Midnight Storm, stated. “He felt the pressure the entire race and kept giving me more. He put away a lot of good horses today.”
“Actually turning for home I thought I was going to win there for a second,” admitted Joe Talamo, who piloted Win the Space. “We had a really good trip and I just kind of let the speed go and settled back in there pretty well. Like I said, turning for home he gave me a heck of a little spurt there. Hats off to the winner. He ran a great race but I was real proud of my horse.”
Off 3-1 odds, Mubtaahij paid $8.20, $4.80, and $4.20. Midnight Storm returned $6.00 and $4.80, and Win the Space returned $8.00.
By Dubawi and out of the Pennekamp mare Pennegale, Mubtaahij was bred by Dunmore Stud Ltd and is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum. The bay stallion has quietly compiled an 18: 5-4-1 record for total purse earnings of $4,529,332. While his prior best U.S. finish was a second in last year’s Grade 1 Woodward, Mubtaahij was already a group 2 winner by virtue of his victory in the UAE Derby in Dubai in 2015.
Winning trainer Bob Baffert, who also saddled fourth place finisher Cupid, had plenty to say after the race.
“I think the blinkers kept (Mutaahij) more focused today,” Baffert said about his winner. “I didn’t want to change too much though. He’s a classy horse.”
In Cupid, Baffert was disappointed, stating that he thought he’d run one-two in this race.
As for Mubtaahij earning an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic and all the other runners Baffert has pointing for the big race, The Silver Fox had just one thing to say. “As long as they’re healthy, I’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup,” he emphasized. “I don’t want to jinx myself. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself and it’s a nice problem but like I said, they have to be training well and they’ve got to stay healthy.”