After Saudi Cup, Dutrow has no firm plan for White Abarrio

After Saudi Cup, Dutrow has no firm plan for White Abarrio

Elmont, N.Y.

Trainer Rick Dutrow could not have been more excited, more sure of himself and his horse, as the days wound down toward White Abarrio’s date with the Grade 1, $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 24.

The Race Day horse had made quick work of his competition in controlling the Whitney Stakes (G1) by 6 1/4 lengths in early August at Saratoga. He had dispatched some of the world’s best performers in taking the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, repelling Japan’s Derma Sotogake by one length.

With White Abarrio having remained at Santa Anita, where he was training sharply for the world’s richest race, Dutrow had no reason to believe the roll would not continue. He even allowed himself to dream of what it would be like to sweep the Saudi Cup and the March 29 Dubai World Cup (G2), with its fat $12 million purse.

The horse that Dutrow was expecting, the one that shined so brightly at Saratoga and Santa Anita, was nowhere to be found at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite in a star-studded field of 14, White Abarrio sat mid-pack for regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. and appeared to be in good striking position, only to wilt when the running got serious in the 1 1/8-mile contest.

He wound up 10th, a gaping 15 lengths behind resurgent Señor Buscador in one of those head-scratching results. Señor Buscador had been no better than seventh in the Classic.

Dutrow is no longer talking the talk about “the white horse.” There are no easy answers as to what went so wrong with so much at stake.

The trainer could have used the arduous travel or the very different surface as a handy excuse. He chose not to. “The horse just didn’t have what it took that day against those horses,” he said.

It was White Abarrio’s first race bearing the colors of Prince Faisal Bin Khaled Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The prince, obviously thrilled about the horse’s prospects ahead of the Saudi Cup, joined C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable as partners ahead of the highly anticipated start in the desert.

Dutrow’s demeanor has completely changed as he closely monitors White Abarrio at their Belmont Park base. He has no plans for his fallen star, grand or otherwise.

He refuses to look beyond whatever he sees each morning. “I’m just seeing how the horse is, just keeping an eye. I don’t even know what I’m doing with him tomorrow,” he said. “I’m just seeing how things are and right now things are fine.”

There is no tentative date for White Abarrio’s return to the work tab. There is no next race in mind. “If he comes out of the trip good and everything is beautiful, hopefully he makes those big races again,” Dutrow said. “That’s what we’re hoping for. So it’s all up to him, how he comes out of the race and out of the trip.”

The great news for the connections is that White Abarrio appears to be as sound exiting the Saudi Cup as he was entering it. “I don’t really see anything that I don’t like seeing,” the trainer said. “He looks fine to me.”

Dutrow intends to take baby steps with a horse who has meant everything to his comeback from a 10-year suspension. “I know what kind of races are out there and what kind of races he has won,” he said. “It’s a matter of making sure every day he is more than ready to do what he is preparing himself to do. That’s the whole key to what I’m seeing.”

The Metropolitan Handicap (G1) was a top priority last season for White Abarrio’s owners. In his first start for Dutrow, he finished third in June to Cody’s Wish, the eventual horse of the year who has since been retired.

The Metropolitan Handicap will be among the highlights of the Belmont Stakes racing festival June 6-9 at Saratoga. The race will remain at its traditional one-mile distance but will be begin on the clubhouse turn and be run out of the chute.

Look for the Metropolitan Handicap to be among White Abarrio’s primary targets again. “Everybody wants to win that race that’s got a nice horse, so how can you not hope that he would make that the right way?” Dutrow said, knowing his horse can be overpowering if he returns to form.

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