The inaugural Saudi Cup meeting arrives with participants from all over the globe descending on King Abdulaziz racetrack in Riyadh with over £20 million on offer throughout the day, including the £15 million showpiece The Saudi Cup.
Despite the controversy surrounding the venue and the outbreak of Coronavirus, the show must go on. The amount of prize money being dangled in front of connections looks like enough to attract competitive fields for a high quality day’s racing.
The opener is a 10 furlong contest on the turf track with solid Group 1 performer Deirdre heading the market. The Japanese mare gets 5lbs from the field here and is very difficult to look past. The only negative would be the lack of obvious pace, as she likes to be held up off a strong pace and kick for home late.
This could lead to an enterprising ride from Ryan Moore on Mount Everest who could possibly steal a nice early position on the rail. A reproduction of his Breeders Cup Turf run wouldn’t put him far off the standard here, especially if Deirdre is to be inconvenienced by how the race is going to be run. He looks a nice each way alternative to the favourite here.
This six and a half furlong turf contest is steeped with group performers just shy of the very top level. Charlie Appleby has two excellent bullets in the form of Glorious Journey and Mubtasim with the latter now running on 3lb better terms with the former for a 1.75L beating over seven furlongs at Meydan last month. With not much separating the pair of those, eyes are drawn to Yorkshire trained Suedois who is a model of consistency across the globe.
The 9 year old has taken in 12 runs in Group and Handicap company since the start of last season, across 4 different countries and has finished in the first 4 every time. He defied top weight last time out to just beat Epic Hero at Meydan over a mile, who followed up last week with a facile 4.5 length victory off a pound higher. With an extra place on offer here he looks a solid play.
The Longines Turf Handicap over just shy of two miles reunites many of the top European stayers who participated in the Melbourne Cup in November. The handicapper appeared to do a spectacular job that day with the first 15 being separated by just over 4 lengths. With that in mind it could be worth looking elsewhere to find the key here. Eyes are drawn to ex-Mark Johnston trained Dee Ex Bee, now under the handling of UAE trainer Salem Bin Ghadayer.
The ultra-consistent stayer has danced all the dances at the highest level and has been unfortunate to run into arguably one of racing’s greatest ever stayers in Stradivarius. His run last year’s Goodwood Cup is arguably the best piece of form on offer here where he split Stradivarius and Cross Counter. Barzalona will send him forward from stall 5 and although a sharp trip he should have no problem seeing out the test well.
The Saudi Sprint over 6 furlongs on the dirt track looks a relatively weak race compared to others on the card with huge question marks over the ability of half the field. This looks a straight forward task for Imperial Hint who looks like the banker of the meeting.
His nearest rival Gladiator King comes into this off the back of 2 wins group 3 wins on the bounce at Meydan, but looks to still have a mountain to climb to beat the multiple Grade 1 scorer. With this race the long term aim and his ability to run well fresh, Imperial Hint looks a no brainer here.
The £15 million showpiece on paper looks like one of the best dirt races in the last decade. Another race with global appeal sees American superstars Maximum Security and McKinzie take on impressive Carnival winners Benbatl and Capezzano in what is going to be a lightning quick pace.
With reports that the dirt track is riding slow with little kickback, preference here goes to Tacitus who was an unlucky loser in most of his top level 3 year old runs, but will be suited massively by the strong gallop. He looked to run far too keen last time before fading in a race ‘won’ by Breeders Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso. Back down to 9 furlongs here he looks a decent each way shout especially with the extra place on offer.