03/29/2012 12:34PM

Dubai World Cup: The Factor gives Baffert another shot at Rocket Man in Golden Shaheen

Andrew Watkins
The Factor (above) will take on defending champion Rocket Man in the $2 million Golden Shaheen.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Last year, trainer Bob Baffert was second to one in the $2 million Golden Shaheen with Euroears, who got beat by Rocket Man in the $2 million race at six furlongs over Meydan’s synthetic surface.

Baffert has returned for another crack at the Golden Shaheen with speed merchant The Factor. Problem is, Rocket Man also has returned to defend his title, and with a gaudy record of 19 wins and 4 seconds from 25 career starts, he remains the horse to beat.

“Euroears ran a great race, he got a little tired at the end, but he got beat by a really good horse,” said Baffert, recalling last year’s Shaheen. “Rocket Man, he loves the synthetic.”

Rocket Man, an Australian-bred gelding who turns 7 in July, is 8 for 9 over synthetic surfaces. His lone loss came in the 2010 Golden Shaheen when he was beaten a half-length by the California-based Kinsale King.

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Before Rocket Man won last year’s Golden Shaheen, he won the Kranji Stakes in Singapore by 5 3/4 lengths. On March 4, he won the same race by 4 3/4 lengths in his first start of the year.

Trainer Patrick Shaw said he believes Rocket Man is coming into this year’s Golden Shaheen as well, if not better, than last year.

“I’m pretty confident,” Shaw said.

Rocket Man does break from the rail, which means he will have to use his early speed to get position.

“You have to keep your position,” said Shaw, whose hose will be ridden by Felix Coetzee, who was aboard for last year’s Shaheen score. “He can be on the pace, but he also doesn’t mind having cover.”

Shaw expressed a healthy respect for The Factor, saying, “Bob brought the right horse this time.”

On his game, The Factor has shown to be as good a sprinter as there is in North America. The speedy son of War Front was impressive winning the Grade 1 Malibu last December at Santa Anita and was solid taking the San Carlos, defeating among others the American sprint champion Amazombie.

“His last two races were just fantastic,” Baffert said. “I think he’s going to run huge.”

Baffert said The Factor was training well in California before shipping to Dubai and reports from Tim Yakteen, a former Baffert assistant who is helping prepare Baffert’s horses here this week, indicate he has gotten over Meydan’s Tapeta surface with aplomb.

“The Factor, he’s been going over this track really well,” said Baffert, who was released Thursday from City Hospital in Dubai following a heart attack suffered Monday. “He worked really well before I shipped him here. When The Factor is on his game, he really runs well.”

Rafael Bejarano will ride The Factor from post 7.

The United States also will be represented by Giant Ryan, the 6-year-old New York-bred who makes his first start since finishing eighth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Prior to that, he had reeled off six consecutive victories, including the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park. Willie Martinez, who in 2006 rode Brass Hat to a second-place finish in the Dubai World Cup – only to have that placing taken away by disqualification when the horse had a medication positive – rides Giant Ryan.

The Australian-based Sepoy brings a gaudy 10-for-12 record into the Golden Shaheen for Godolphin and trainer Peter Snowden. He has never raced on synthetic and though his trainer said it took a while for him to adapt to the surface, Sepoy did blow out a sharp three furlongs in 35.27 seconds earlier this week.

Krypton Factor and Hitchens traded decisions in a pair of six-furlong prep races run over this strip earlier in the meet.