03/22/2011 2:50PM

Dubai the latest stop on journey for Euroears

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Mattea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club
Euroears gets in some exercise over the Meydan surface getting ready for the Golden Shaheen.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Bob Baffert likes to nickname his horses, at least in the media. Real Quiet, for instance, Baffert called The Fish, so narrow was the colt when seen head-on.

Euroears, the horse Baffert has followed to Dubai for Saturday night’s $2 million Golden Shaheen?

“I call him The Natural,” Baffert said.

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The reference works. “The Natural” is a novel by Bernard Malamud whose hero is Roy Hobbs. A gifted young baseball pitcher, Hobbs is the victim of a shooting at age 19 that derails his career. Sixteen years later, and with his bat, Wonderboy, Hobbs emerges from obscurity to become a prolific hitter for a fictional pro team.

Euroears is a 7-year-old, which isn’t that far away from a 35-year-old baseballer. Few in Dubai seem to know much about the horse, either. More than one European on Tuesday morning was heard to say, “Who is this Euroears?” The rest of the story fits, too. Euroears started his career in 2007 and won his first six races by 23 lengths combined, beating the very good sprinter Semaphore Man by more than three lengths in March 2008 at Fair Grounds. Then came the fall.

Euroears didn’t get shot – he did break his leg. A fractured condylar joint required surgery, and, after a one-start comeback eight months later, the surgery site required further surgery, and Euroears was laid off for another eight months. He won a pair of races in the fall of 2009, but never truly looked like his former self, and ended a winless 2010 campaign with a 13th – place finish last July.

“As far as pure speed, he was the fastest horse I’ve ever been around,” said Bret Calhoun, who trained Euroears for his first 16 starts.

And that, one might have guessed, would have been the last we heard of Euroears. But anyone with an eye to Southern California workout lists would have noted that name again, Euroears, late last year. Bullet workout followed bullet workout, and when Euroears made his first start for Baffert, he won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap on Jan. 22 at Santa Anita by more than two lengths, running six furlongs in 1:07 and change. The Natural, indeed.

“I thought he was going to get too old before we ever go to see what he could really do,” said Jim Helzer, a Texan who owns Euroears with his wife, Marilyn.

Helzer has been in racing for 50 years. He used to train at Centennial Park in Colorado, but now is more of a dabbler. Helzer has some stalls at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, and did some preliminary legging-up of Euroears himself when he was coming back from layoffs. Helzer is best known in racing for owning Refrigerator, who was one of the fastest Quarter Horses ever to race. Euroears is cut from similar cloth.

“He just breaks and goes,” Baffert said after watching Euroears work about three furlongs in about 35.60 seconds Tuesday.

This is Baffert’s first Dubai trip since he was here to saddle Captain Steve to win the 2001 World Cup, Baffert’s last Dubai winner. One might assume Baffert made the trip this year to pick up a trophy. Tongue in cheek, Baffert said he chose to travel because “it’s raining at home.”

It was not even eight o’clock and the desert sun already had toasted Meydan. The weather was looking good, come to think of it. And so was The Natural.

Europeans clear quarantine

The shipment of horses from Europe who will start here Saturday night arrived in Dubai on Monday, and, having cleared quarantine, the Europeans are expected to train Wednesday morning. Among this group of horses is Cape Blanco, who will be among the World Cup favorites, and Dangerous Midge, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner slated for a start in the $5 million Sheema Classic.