Win or lose, Frankie Dettori is sure to receive an emotional send-off after he dismounts from Country Grammer in the 27th edition of the Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday.
The charismatic Italian, who is set to retire at the end of the year, is booked on seven of the eight thoroughbred races on the nine-race card that also include a prize for Purebred Arabians.
Dettori, 53, rides Country Grammer, winner of last year's $12 million Dubai World Cup race and bidding to become only the second horse after Godolphin’s Thunder Snow to win the coveted prize twice.
Should he be successful, Dettori will also become the most successful jockey in the history of the Dubai World Cup race with five wins. He is currently tied on four wins with American Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey.
Country Grammer has been consistent. The six-year-old son of Tonalist has never finished lower than fifth, and not beyond the first two in his last nine starts, which includes two runner-up finishes in the $20 million Saudi Cup as well as his victory in the Dubai World Cup last March.
He has won five of his 15 starts, and finishing runner-up six times, once third, and was fourth in his racecourse debut.
However, the Bob Baffert-trained bay will have to deal with a wide draw from Gate 14 in the 15-runner field.
Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s assistant, is quietly confident Dettori will use all his experience of more than three decades in the saddle to guide Country Grammer to victory.
“It's a mile-and-a-quarter race and we'll leave it up to Frankie and he'll work something out,” Barnes said.
Country Grammer is a stalker and how well Dettori can settle him in the field over the 2,000-metre trip on the dirt surface will be crucial.
“It’s not going to be easy and Stall 14 is not ideal,” Dettori said. “I spoke to [owner] Amir Zidan last night and just said that it is what it is. We can’t change it now so let’s get on with it and see how the race unfolds.
“I can’t really say a bad word about Country Grammer because if you look at his form he’s all guts – he’s a proper horse.
“The way that he ran in the San Antonio Stakes [on December 26], he was just sharp and was easy. I was outpaced around the turn and I thought I was in trouble, but the same as last year in the World Cup, he just doesn’t know how to give up.
“Sometimes he runs out of runway but you just know that he’s going to give you everything he’s got.”
In the Saudi Cup last month, Country Grammer was full of running towards the end and just beaten by Panthalassa by three-quarters of a length. Stepping up in distance in Dubai, he should be able to turn that result around on the Japanese raider, drawn even worse, in Gate 15.
With Algiers, the in-form local entry who has won his last two races at Meydan, also drawn wide in Gate 13, makes this Dubai World Cup race one of the most exciting in recent years.
Ushba Tesoro and T O Keynes are among the other two Japanese runners of note while the 2022 Saudi Cup winner Emblem Road, Bhupat Seemar’s pair Remorse and Bendoog, and Bahraini trainer Fawzi Nass’ Salute The Soldier are the long shots.
Algiers has been a revelation. He was impressive in the Al Maktoum Challenge Rounds 1 and 2 but skipped Super Saturday’s Round 3 of the series to go into Saturday's big race fresh .
“We’re incredibly excited about him,” Simon Crisford, joint-trainer of Algiers with his son Ed, said of their first Dubai World Cup runner.
“It obviously means a lot to myself and Ed, but we’ve been very lucky and blessed that the horse was allocated to us by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid] when he came from France to here.
“The horse really transformed for racing on this surface. He was a very rock solid 110 [rating] horse on turf. But since he’s been running on this race track [dirt], which really plays to his strengths, he’s stepped up to another level and he’s now running to 120.”