By Richard Rosenblatt
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Knicks Go and Malibu Stakes (G1) winner Charlatan are set to lead a five-horse American contingent in a likely field of 14 for the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 20.
Saudi Cup officials released the “likely starters’’ Friday for the two-day (Feb.19-20), nine-race, $30.5 million Saudi Cup Meet.
Six countries could be represented in the starting gate for the 1,800-meter Saudi Cup – five runners from the U.S., four from England, one from Japan, one from Bahrain, one from the United Arab Emirates, and two from Saudi Arabia.
Tacitus, who finished fifth in last year’s Saudi Cup, is expected to return for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, along with fellow American-based Sleepy Eyes Todd and Max Player, who ran in all three Triple Crown races for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Also listed as “likely starters” are Saudi-based Alzahzaah and Great Scot, Japan-based Chuwa Wizard, England-based Bangkok, Extra Elusive, Global Giant, and Mishriff, UAE-based Military Law, and Bahrain-based Simsir.
The announcement comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the world to revisit travel protocols On Feb. 2, for example, the Saudi government imposed sweeping travel restriction that prohibit visitors to the kingdom from 20 other countries, including the U.S. and England.
“The entire team are working incredibly hard to deliver a world-class event where the health and safety of all participants is paramount,” Tom Ryan, the Saudi Jockey Club’s director of strategy and international racing, said in a
statement. “It has obviously been a difficult year for everyone, and we are glad that we are able to put on this meeting for racing fans all over the world to enjoy.”
The 1,800-meter Saudi Cup on dirt is the world’s richest horse race and was inaugurated in 2020. Maximum Security finished first but the prize money of $10 million remains on hold as officials await the results of an investigation involving a performance enhancing drug scheme involving the horse’s former trainer, Jason Servis.
Nonetheless, the show goes on in a few weeks at the King Abdullah King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The race doesn’t seem to have as much allure as the inaugural, which was run before the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting the entire world. But the payoff is so huge it’s hard for owners to ignore trying to prepare a horse to be in good shape to cash in. There’s also six other races on the Feb. 19-20 cards worth $9.5 million in prize money.
Which is one reason Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert decided to wait for this race rather than have Charlatan make his 4-year-old debut in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) on Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park. Owners SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Frederick Hertrich III, John D. Fielding, Golconda Stables probably a say in the decision as well.
That was not the case with Brad Cox, who trains Knicks Go. After taking over training of the horse last year, Knicks Go is on a roll – four wins in a row including the Pegasus World Cup to kick off his 5-year-old campaign. Sleepy Eyes Todd was fourth in that race.
While Knicks Go and Charlatan appear to be the top choices, Chuwa Wizard, winner of the Champions Cup (G1) on dirt in Japan on Dec. 6, could be
considered a leading contender, as well as Mishriff, trained by John Gosden for Saudi Prince Faisal bin Salman and winner of three of his last four starts, including the Prix Du Jockey Club (G1) in July at Chantilly.
“We were very excited when we saw the entry list for the second staging of the Saudi Cup and now we know the likely fields, we really are delighted,’’ Ryan said. “A battle between the likes of Knicks Go, Charlatan, Mishriff and Chuwa Wizard in the Saudi Cup would be a huge thrill, while the strength and quality of all the other races has really stood up.’’
Hundreds On Entry List For $20 Million Saudi Cup – World’s Richest Race
Jan 15, 2021 – By Richard Rosenblatt
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and strict travel challenges, more than 100 horses from around the world are on the entry list for the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack on Feb. 20.
In total, more than 1,000 horses are on entry lists for the two-day racing extravaganza at the track in Riyadh.
The Saudi Cup – the world’s richest horse race with $10 million going to the winner – is limited to 14 starters.
Among the entries released on Wednesday are the filly Swiss Skydiver, winner of the Preakness (G1), and Malibu (G1) winner Charlatan, who has finished first in all four of his races (DQ’d from the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby win for post-race medication violation).
Also on the list for the second edition of the 1,800-meter race on dirt (about 1 1/8 miles) is Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner (G1) Knicks Go, a likely favorite for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 23, along with several other probables in the race: Code of Honor, Jesus’ Team, Math Wizard, True Timber, Tax, Sleepy Eye Todd, and Harpers First Ride among them. The World Cup winner receives an automatic invite to the Saudi Cup.
Nine countries are represented on the entry list, including a large contingent from Japan. Among them are Chuwa Wizard, the country’s dirt horse champion who clinched an automatic berth in the field with a win in last month’s Champions Cup (G1).
Other notables on the list include Addeybb, Gronkowski, Master Fencer, Maxfield, North America, Storm the Court, and Tacitus.
Last year’s inaugural Saudi Cup was won by Maximum Security, with the champion mare Midnight Bisou second. But the $10 million winner’s share is being held up while Saudi officials await results of an investigation in the United States into the doping charges against the horse’s former trainer Jason Servis.
A total of 1,036 horses are on the entry list for the eight races on Feb. 19-20 worth $30.5 million in purses. Countries represented on the Saudi Cup entry list are the U.S., England, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the Bahamas.
Tom Ryan, the director of strategy and international planning for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, told bloodhorse.com that the organizers are “absolutely thrilled,” especially with the challenges dealing with COVID-19.