He is the reigning Dubai World Cup champion, but Country Grammer faces a “tall order” at Del Mar in the Pacific Classic Stakes on Saturday (US Pacific Time).
That is when the superstar five-year-old – with almost $10.9 million in career earnings – will go up against heavy favorite Flightline, for John Sadler.
Indeed, champion trainer Bob Baffert concedes it won’t be easy to end up with bragging rights from the Grade 1 race over 1 ¼ miles and worth USD $1 million.
Flightline, at four years old, has won all four of his starts including his past two at Grade 1 level – the Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park and Runhappy Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.
And bettors should believe the hype because he saluted with consummate ease in each of the above feature races.
It goes without saying that time and time again, Hall of Fame conditioner Baffert has proven he loves the pressure of Grade 1 events.
But even he concedes Country Grammer – who also finished runner-up in the Group 1 Saudi Cup on February 26 – will have his work cut out going up against Flightline.
“He (Country Grammer) is a mile-and-a-quarter horse. He shows up on race day and he’s a different horse,” Baffert, who has won two of the past five Pacific Classic Stakes, told RacingOnline.
“But it’s a tall order because I have a lot of respect for Flightline.
“I’ve been watching him work and he looks great out there.”
The superstar jockey battle will see John R. Velazquez ride Country Grammer at +400, while Flavien Prat will be aboard Flightline at -500.
This week Sadler, 66, said it was an honor and privilege to have such a naturally-gifted horse like Flightline in his care, adding his greatest value will be as a sire.
He also compared his four-year-old to one of the greatest basketball players of all time, LeBron James.
“He’s just one of those special athletes who comes along. It’s very rare – it’s like a solar eclipse or something,” said Sadler, who has won three of the past four Pacific Classic Stakes.
“It’s like LeBron. He’s just a very special athlete. Very gifted – he’s the whole package.”