Now West Coast gets to be the starting quarterback

West Coast’s name in lights: “He’s on the rise, and he keeps getting better and better,” says trainer Bob Baffert. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood

He has been the understudy for so long, but tomorrow’s Dubai World Cup finally gives West Coast a golden chance to step into the spotlight in a starring role. “He’s always been in the shadow of Arrogate,” trainer Bob Baffert said while referring to his now retired trainee, who won last year’s edition of the race after storming to prominence in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

Using an American football analogy, Baffert compared Arrogate and the now 4-year-old West Coast to former San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. With Young as his back-up, Montana won multiple Super Bowls as the game’s Most Valuable Player and then Young accomplished the same when he became the first-stringer. Both Montana and Young are enshrined in professional football’s Hall of Fame.

“Now it’s time for West Coast to be the starting quarterback. This race is his coming-out party,” Baffert said.

Baffert, who also trained American Pharoah to the first American Triple Crown championship in 37 years and completed the Grand Slam with a Breeders’ Cup Classic win with the colt that same year, is confident that Gary and Mary West’s West Coast has what it takes to step up.

“He’s big and he’s really strong, and he’s got a high cruising speed. He’s a brute. He can carry 126 pounds. He has a good mind but he can be tough to handle. He’ll push you around a little bit. He’s very competitive. He’s a really good, top-class horse. He’s on the rise, and he keeps getting better and better. I like the way he’s coming into this race,” he said.

Baffert is high on West Coast even though the colt finished second and third to Gun Runner, respectively in his last two outings in the 2018 Pegasus and the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Before tangling with Gun Runner, West Coast racked up a five-race win streak that included two G1s.

“West Coast has gotten beat in his last couple of outs. But I still think he’s the best older horse in the United States right now. He’s run against some really good horses. The way he ran in the Pegasus was pretty impressive and Gun Runner’s not in here,” he said.

The trainer is so confident in his charge’s ability that he encouraged West Coast’s owners to be in attendance for the event even though Gary West does not care to travel and was wary of making the long journey to Dubai.

The couple, who have been married 47 years and called West Coast’s win in the 2017 Travers Stakes the greatest feeling they’ve yet experienced in their many decades of owning top-flight Thoroughbreds, arrived on Thursday.

“They know the hardships of this game and understand there are so many ups and downs. They know the disappointments can really get you down, but they are so excited about this horse and this race,” Baffert said.

The same can be said for the great conditioner, who is the second-ranked trainer in the world.

“Arrogate and American Pharoah are the closest I’ll ever get to Secretariat. This is West Coast’s chance to put himself right up there with those names,” Baffert said.

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