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Trip to Saudi Arabia Next for White Abarrio, Dutrow

Being in the Los Angeles area, it wasn’t hard for trainer Rick Dutrow to find a place to celebrate after enjoying one of his most rewarding victories.

“It was great. Are you kidding me? I didn’t have to pay and I got drunk. We went to the Derby (restaurant) and our hotel is right next to it so there was no driving involved,” the jive-talking trainer said Nov. 5.

While White Abarrio ‘s length victory Nov. 4 in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Park fashioned a rags-to-riches story for Dutrow and created a jumble for Horse of the Year honors, less than 24 hours after winning America’s richest race, Dutrow’s mind was focused on winning the world’s richest race.

Though numerous stars from the two-day World Championships will be heading to the breeding shed, C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa’s White Abarrio’s future has the Feb. 24 $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh circled on the calendar.

“I want to win the Saudi Cup and the Dubai World Cup (G1, March 30). I want to do that so bad. So, that’s where my attention is. I’m having breakfast today with Doctor (Larry) Bramlage and we’re talking about little, little, little things,” Dutrow said.

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Rick Dutrow talkes with the media outside White Abarrio's stall in the Doug O'Neill barn.  Morning after the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5, 2023, with White Abarrio and connections at the barn.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Rick Dutrow talks with the media the morning after White Abarrio’s Breeders’ Cup Classic victory

For Mark Cornett of C2 Racing, the nine-furlong Saudi Cup is a perfect fit for a 4-year-old Race Day  colt with two grade 1 wins under his belt at 1 1/8 miles (Florida Derby and Whitney Stakes).

“I’m thinking about the next step,” he said. “If you were to tailor a race for the horse, I would draw it up at a mile and an eighth at one turn. I’d put a $20 million purse behind it. That’s what happened with the Saudi Cup.”

If there’s a potential obstacle it would likely be some pesky foot issues that were resolved for the Classic through glue-on shoes applied by Ian McKinlay.

“That’s going to be an on-going thing,” Dutrow said about the son of the Into Mischief   mare Catching Diamonds. “I think we’re probably going to have to let him tell us when they need to be taken off instead of us taking them off. Maybe we’ll just wait until he takes a bad step or just doesn’t reach out and then we’ll know what to change. When it gets like that it’s not bad, it’s just like you are rubbing your heel but you have to get it changed and make it right or it’s going to get worse and worse.”

For Dutrow, the Classic was the high point of a year that saw him return from a 10-year suspension for multiple offenses in May and begin the process of rebuilding a once-thriving career that featured a 2005 BC Classic win with Saint Liam  and 2008 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) wins with Big Brown  

Yet, in the glow of his richest victory, Dutrow did not want to dwell on the past.

“He’s an easy horse to train. Ian’s the one that glued him. The grooms feed him. I just oversee it. I haven’t done anything but help a good horse along the way. I love doing that,” said Dutrow, whose weekend included a 19-1 victory by Where’s Chris  in the Nashua Stakes Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The C2 Racing team expressed satisfaction in being a part of Dutrow’s big moments such as the Classic and White Abarrio’s win in the Whitney three months ago.

“It’s not vindication but Rick being able to get back on this stage with the right horse and showing the whole world how the horse can perform at that level,” said Clint Cornett. “I’m glad we’re a part of helping Rick get back to where he should be and should have been all long, to be honest.”

The story behind White Abarrio has been an equally wild ride. Bred by Spendthrift, the horse that would become the first Breeders’ Cup Classic winner bred by the famed Kentucky Farm was originally bought for $7,500 and then pinhooked for $40,000 when bought by original trainer Carlos Perez. After the colt won his Sept. 24, 2021 debut by 6 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park, the Cornetts moved quickly to purchase him.

“He ran a 16 (Ragozin speed figure) first time out, but it’s more than that,” Mark Cornett said. “It’s the mind of the horse. You don’t see 2-year-olds do that. You might see a 2-year-old go to the lead and sprint away and run a big number but this horse broke dead last out of the one hole. Weaved his way through traffic, split horses, and galloped out with his ears pricked. He did it the right way.”

White Abarrio with Irad Ortiz, Jr. wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita in Arcadia, CA on November 4, 2023.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

White Abarrio draws away to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Turned over to trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., White Abarrio started his 3-year-old season with wins in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and the Floride Derby before he finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and lost his next four races at 3. He started 2023 with an eighth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) and then returned to the winner’s circle March 4 with an allowance optional claiming win at Gulfstream.

Then things became dicey. When two of Joseph’s horses died of apparent heart attacks in early May, he was indefinitely suspended by Churchill Downs and White Abarrio was blocked from racing there. That led to targeting the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park, where the colt was cleared to run, and finding a New York trainer, a search that ended with Dutrow, who Mark Cornett met about two decades ago when Dutrow trained for Paul Pompa Jr.

Joseph was cleared and his suspension in Kentucky lifted June 30, but under Dutrow’s care, White Abarrio was third in the Met Mile and then stayed in New York to post a one-sided win in the Aug. 5 Whitney, his last race before the Classic added an exclamation point to a tumultuous year.

“It has been the most difficult management job we’ve ever had to do because of the roadblocks and hurdles that are out of our control,” said Mark Cornett, who noted Joseph did an “unbelievable” job with White Abarrio and that C2 has about 15 horses with him in Florida.

“It’s hard enough managing a horse based on the horse. But we had to factor in politics and some other things that happened at Churchill Downs and (the New York Racing Association) and had to go from Plan A to B to C. In the middle of that, we had to decide what to do with a trainer’s switch. There’s been a lot of obstacles to overcome but when you have a good horse like this, they’ll do it.”

As a result, the Horse of the Year outlook seems to be a three-horse battle among White Abarrio, who was the 5-2 favorite in the Classic, Dirt Mile (G1) winner Cody’s Wish  , who beat White Abarrio in the Met Mile but was third in the Whitney, and Distaff (G1) winner Idiomatic , with Turf (G1T) runner-up Up to the Mark  , the 3-year-old Arcangelo  , and Sprint (G1) winner Elite Power   next in the pecking order.

One can only imagine the celebration if White Abarrio brings home that prize.


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