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.