HUGE UPSET! Emblem Road Pulls Shocker in $20 Million Saudi Cup


By Richard Rosenblatt

In one of the biggest upsets in racing, longshot local hero Emblem Road gave Saudi Arabia a landmark victory in the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) on Saturday at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

The result had the crowd at the track cheering as Emblem Road with jockey Wiggy Ramos aboard crossed the finish line ahead of a pair of American trained horses, Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer, and Steve Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon. Emblem Road’s stablemate, Making Miracles, checked in fourth.

Defending champion and favorite Mishriff was never in contention and finished last in the international field of 14 which included 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun (ninth).

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Wigberto Ramos celebrates after winning The Saudi Cup on Emblem Road. Photo courtesy of Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia / Mathea Kelley

Emblem Road, owned by Prince Saud Bin Salman Abdulaziz, was the longest shot in the field at 66-1 (BUSR odds). Trained by Mitab Almulawah, the 4-year-old son of Quality Road earned the winner’s share of $10 million.

“It’s a pleasure to run with Bob Baffert and all the good trainers in the world,’’ said assistant trainer Hisham Abdulwahed. “It means so much to us, and the Prince.

“To put the name on the Cup, that’s an amazing thing for the kingdom and us. We started from the beginning of the season to get to this point, and today we won.”

Would the Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 26 be next? “Why not?” replied Abdulwahed.

Emblem Road came off the turn running in seventh place. Taken widest of all in the stretch, he blew past leader Country Grammer and Midnight Bourbon and took the lead with about 50 meters to go to win by about a half-length.

The celebration began immediately as Ramos, who’s been riding in the Middle East for more than 20 years, raised a fist in the air and the winning connections congratulated each other.

“I feel so happy,’’ Ramos said, who was given a congratulatory hug after the race by Joel Rosario (Midnight Bourbon). “I just got the biggest race in the world. I didn’t think about (how big this would be) before the race.”

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Wigberto Ramos celebrates after winning the Saudi Cup with horse Emblem Road on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Reuters

While the result was a big disappointment for the connections of Mishriff and Mandaloun, it gave Baffert a second straight runner-up finish in the Saudi Cup. Last year, Mishriff narrowly defeated Baffert’s Charlatan. Not to worry, though, since the second-place share of the purse is $3.5 million.

Earlier in the day, Baffert won the $2 million Saudi Derby (G3) by a half-length with Pinehurst.

Following Making Miracles in fifth was Aero Trem. Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Marche Lorraine was sixth, followed by Secret Ambition, T O Keynes, Mandaloun, Magny Cours, Real World, Art Collector, Sealiway, and Mishriff. The winning time for the 1 1/8 miles was posted as 1:50.52.

“He didn’t jump as sharp as last time but I did a similar thing and kept him out wide. He got there with ease but once I turned into the bend I was struggling from a long way out,” jockey David Egan said. “I hope he’s all right, there’s obviously something amiss. He’s better than that.”

Emblem Road, bred in Kentucky, has now won four in a row and has a career record of 9-7-1-1. Six of his wins have come at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. He was sold for $280,000 at the Keeneland yearling sales and sold again for $80,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale for 2-year-olds in training.