This coming Saturday, it is once again time for the Saudi Cup ... American trainers Brad Cox and Steve Asmussen do battle! Check out this Runners Guide below!
Race 8: 1800 Meters (Dirt), The Saudi Cup (Group 1), Purse $20 Million, 4+ (Saturday)
The 3rd Annual Saudi Cup Meet is back for another go from Riyadh, and will once again feature the “richest horse race” on the planet … $20 Million ... The Saudi Cup.
That signature race brought a capacity field in both 2020 and 2021. The inaugural edition saw Maximum Security sweep down the center of the lane for the win. Midnight Bisou, one of the most successful female Thoroughbreds of all-time, garnered the place after a valiant go.
The event was not without controversy, as shortly thereafter news broke that Jason Servis, the trainer of Max Security was under federal indictment. As if that were not enough, HOF jockey Mike Smith was penalized $200k for overuse of the whip, while riding Bloom Racing’s Midnight Bisou. It seemed like everything that came after the race was circumspect (it still is undecided), and that did not include a Pandemic.
As for the ’21 contest, it brought together a couple of strong American runners in Bob Baffert’s Charlatan, and Brad Cox’s Knicks Go (Eclipse Award, HOY). However, even though they were the headliners, it was John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff (IRE), a router that swept down the lane, winning in fine style in the end with young David Egan aboard.
This time around racing returns to the King Abdulaziz Racecourse, an event hosted by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia. An American contingent arrives with much promise, including Art Collector, Country Grammar, Mandaloun (now the Derby Champ), and his rival, Midnight Bourbon. They will join an international group of accomplished distance specialists, which includes Breeders’ Cup winner Marche Lorraine (JPN). All will vie for contention, as they travel around the 1-turn 1 1/8th (by U.S. standards).
With an undercard on Saturday of both dirt and turf contests, plus a jockey’s challenge on Friday, this Saudi Meet should bring a breath of fresh air to international Thoroughbred racing.
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Country Grammer (USA) (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: B. Baffert):
Trainer Bob Baffert and owner Amr Zedan received the news this week that Medina Spirit was officially DQ’d from his KYD147 win. Now, they try and score in the Saudi Cup with a son of Tonalist that has not been seen since the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita last May. Even with Flavien Prat aboard, it is hard to see this one being competitive off-the-bench. Still, even a tarnished Baffert is pretty good.
#2 Aero Term (BRZ) (Jky: V. Leal/Trn: A. Pereira):
Here is a Brazilian bred runner that scored in one of the most prestigious Group 1 races in all of South America - Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano. At the Maronas in Uruguay, with regular rider Vagner Leal aboard, he won impressively against a large field of 12 others. That was pretty impressive off a 280-day break. Still, these international waters are much deeper, and swimming with some hungry sharks. The distance test was passed in that G1 for this now-4-yr-old, but can this son of a sprint sire like Shanghai Bobby win in Riyadh? It’s doubtful …
#3 Midnight Bourbon (USA) (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. Asmussen):
Like the days of Affirmed and Alydar, we love a great equine rivalry … don’t we? Steve Asmussen pitted his hard-knocking colt by Tiznow against Brad Cox’s Mandaloun throughout the Louisiana Series and beyond. They have met a total of 6 times … this will be the 7th. Back in late January, it was his adversary that got the best of him in the Louisiana Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds. Eclipse Award-winning Jockey Joel Rosario makes the trip to ride once again in Saudi Arabia. Winchell T-Breds, and the team are looking for some payback …
#4 Real World (IRE) (Jky: F. Dettori/Trn: S.B. Suroor):
Frankie Dettori … Saeed bin Suroor … Godolphin … Dark Angel (IRE) … all those add up to those that are directly involved with this 5-yr-old router. His most recent form mainly resides in the turf, but it was during his campaign last year at this time, that he had a good dose of dirt. Suroor is a master trainer for the world’s greatest breeder and owner, so you should expect this one to be well-spotted. Even though he is short when it comes to competing in Group 1s, he has run very well at Royal Ascot, Newbury, York, and at Longchamp. He is quite a shipper, and so is his celebrated jockey … Mr. Dettori. If he can stretch out, then he could be a player late in the race.
#5 Emblem Road (USA) (Jky: W. Ramos/Trn: M. Almulawah):
A lightly-raced son of Quality Road, I am wondering what this colt is doing in a Group 1 race like this. Prince Saud bin Salman Abdulaziz has big dreams, but I would not include a win in the Saudi Cup. His only race that I was able to find was against a full field of "also rans" in what is listed as an “Open” contest. This must be a farce … but then again, he does have home field advantage. Wigberto Ramos has yet to ride him in competition.
#6 Mandaloun (USA) (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):
Trainer Brad Cox made the trip to Saudi Arabia with his KYD147 Champion … That last portion probably doesn’t sit too well with a conditioner like him, because it is no way to win a race. Still, Cox has much to be proud of when it comes to this Juddmonte homebred by Into Mischief. The colt took on all sorts of challenges last year, and even though he was in the shadow of his stablemate, Essential Quality, he fared rather nicely. Going head-to-head with Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon was also a highlight. At this point, with regular rider Florent Geroux in-town, he is my top pick. If the trip went well, and he even remotely takes to the track, then this race could be his. Coming back to begin his 4-yr-old season in the Louisiana Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds, he didn’t miss a beat. After that win, with some efficient works under his saddle, he has arrived, ready to roll … A top selection …
#7 Magny Cours (USA) (Jky: M. Barzalona/Trn: A. Fabre):
A turf horse that is making the switch to the dirt, the famed conditioner Andre Faber believes that something magical can happen for his 7-yr-old by Medaglia d’Oro. Granted he was 3rd in last year’s Dubai World Cup, finishing behind Mike Stidham’s Mystic Guide. It is true, that Faber’s charge has competed in some tough races in France against the likes of Lord Glitters and Barney Roy. Still, this is very different company, and he is going to need to run even better than he did in the WC. Jockey Mickael Barzalona has the ability to ride in some tough spots, but even that may not be enough.
#8 T O Keynes (JPN) (Jky: M. Kohei/Trn: T. Daisuke):
Trainer Daisuke of Japan is bringing this son of Sinister Minister to Riyadh to compete in this dirt distance test. He might be up for it … Lightly-raced compared to several of these entries, he was sure stellar when he won the Champions Cup (G1) back in December at Chukyo Racecourse in Japan. That was against Chuwa Wizard, a top-class specialist. With his dirt pedigree, and regular jockey in the irons, I like his chances to score an upset. Since he has not left the country … that of course is an issue. But great horses can weather storms, and win great races … this is his moment, maybe …
#9 Art Collector (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: B. Mott):
The last time we saw this Bill Mott-trainee, it was at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). That race was full of storylines … Knicks Go and his triumph … Medina Spirit’s last race … Essential Quality’s finale before he headed to stud. Somehow at 10/1, Mott’s runner got lost in all the melee. It is the way it goes. Off the break, this horse by Bernardini travels over with a number of works to his credit. I suppose that Bruce Lunsford wanted to be seen on the grand stage of Saudi … here is his chance. I doubt that this accomplished runner will be able to make much of an impact. Is there a bright spot? At least they chose a strong rider to come along … Luis Saez. He is a superstar, and can make a major difference. Wager at your own peril …
#10 Making Miracles (GB) (Jky: A. Moreno/Trn: M. Almulawah):
This son by Pivotal has not been seen in a race since last year’s Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh. That is quite a length of time, and it is hard to see him being able to keep up with this kind of company. Too much to ask, frankly …
#11 Sealiway (FR) (Jky: R. Moore/Trn: F. Graffard):
This well-bred son of Galiway (GB) has a strong 2021, that was capped off by a strong showing in the Group 1 Arc at Longchamp, and a win at Ascot in Champion Stakes (G1). There is no question that F-H Graffard inherits quite a runner from Cedric Rossi. He is choosing to take this Le Haras De La Gousserie-owned 4-yr-old on the road to Saudi Arabia. I do not doubt that Graffard knows what he is doing. Do not get me wrong, I respect his conditioning ability. Still, this one is a wild card, to say the least. A major “pro” is the presence of super jockey Ryan Moore … his international star quality is bright.
#12 Secret Ambition (GB) (Jky: T. O’Shea/Trn: S. Seemar):
The Seemar Barn is sending its best representative over to Saudi for their Cup. Last month, this 9-yr-old veteran of many wars was superb in the Al Maktoum Challenge (G2). Second to Golden Goal, it looked as though the race could be his. Even though he did not come away with the victory, it was a nice showing, to be sure. Last year, regular rider Tadhg O’Shea rode to victory in the Godolphin Mile (G1) on WC Night. This distance in Riyadh is a little out of his comfort zone. A true miler, he is going to have to work hard to stretch out.
#13 Marche Lorraine (JPN) (Jky: C. Soumillon/Trn: Y. Yohito):
The pride of Japan is coming to Saudi Arabia for what might be her final go. This field better watch out. Back at the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, this daughter of Orfevre (JPN) surprised many when she romped home in the Distaff (G1). With that score, the mare bested the likes of Letruska, Shedaresthedevil, Dunbar Road, Malathaat, and Clairiere. Oisin Murphy is not around this time … serving a lengthy suspension … so, Christophe Soumillon gets the call. He is a worthy sub. If Yoshito’s conditioning is up to scratch, and I am sure it is, this female could spring the upset ... this time, against the boys. What a wonderful angle!
#14 Misriff (Jky: D. Egan/Trn: J. and T. Gosden):
What a 2021 this son of Make Believe (GB) had last year. He faced down the Americans in the Saudi Cup, and then sprinted over to Dubai (switching to turf), and promptly won the Sheema Classic (G1). John is handing the training duties over to his son, Thady Gosden, and what a first horse that young man has under his care. Once again, the boisterous David Egan has the mount, and the team is going to try and do it again for Prince Faisal. Based on his form (has not run since 16 Oct @Ascot), it is going to be quite a challenge. Champions are made for situations like these … we shall see how the 5-yr-old responds.
It’s Saudi Cup time … should be a great set of races from the Middle East! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!