Likely runners revealed for $35.1m Saudi Cup weekend

Likely runners revealed for $35.1m Saudi Cup weekend
Likely runners revealed for $35.1m Saudi Cup weekend

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - The likely runners for the $35.1 million Saudi Cup meeting on Feb. 25 and 26 have been announced, with horses from 16 racing nations set to compete in Riyadh.

King Abdulaziz Racecourse will host 16 races on its dirt and turf tracks, and the highlight of the meeting, the $20 million Group 1 Saudi Cup, looks set to be contested by the winners of 16 Group 1 races from six countries.

The field is headed by three-time Group 1 winner and last year’s Saudi Cup champion, Irish-bred Mishriff. A historic second win in the race would see the John and Thady Gosden-trained runner surpass Winx and become the highest-earning racehorse of all time.

Last season’s Group 1 Champion Stakes winner, Sealiway, of France, will make his debut for trainer Francis-Henri Graffard after leaving the stable of Cedric Rossi.

Japan’s chances of winning a first Saudi Cup lie with the Daisuke Takayanagi-trained T O Keynes, an impressive winner of his last start in the Grade 1 Champions Cup at Chukyo in December, and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Marche Lorraine. Trainer Yoshito Yahagi has indicated that his six-year-old will make her final start in Saudi Arabia as she bids to end her career with another win at the highest level.

Once again there is a strong contingent from the US, headed by Brad Cox’s Mandaloun, who narrowly got the better of Steven Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes last month. Grade 1 American winners, Art Collector, Happy Saver, and Country Grammer are also set to line up.

Antonio Cintra’s Grade 1 Gran Premio Latinoamericano winner Aero Trem of Brazil, trained in Uruguay, will be the first South American runner in The Saudi Cup.

The field is completed by locally trained US horse Emblem Road, and Making Miracles of the UK, a former Chester Cup victor who qualified by winning the domestic Group 1 Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Cup last time out.

Many other top-class horses are set to take their places in Riyadh, across a card which features a further six Group races.

In the $1.5 million Group 3 Neom Turf Cup presented by Jahez, Group 1 Hong Kong Vase British runner-up Pyledriver will bid to go one better for trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick. A strong French entry includes Ebaiyra (the US), Eudaimonia (France), and Magny Cours (the US), while Bahrain-based trainer Fawzi Nass is set to be represented by Port Lions (Ireland), winner of the inaugural running of this race in 2020.

Irish hopes of a winner at the meeting could hinge on Sonnyboyliston and the Tony Mullins-trained Princess Zoe (Germany) in the $2.5 million Group 3 Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap, where they will be joined by Nerium (Ireland), a Group 2 winner in Germany, and Maria Cristina Munoz’s Argentine Group 1 winner, Mirinaque (Argentina).

In the $1.5 million Group 3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Saudia, Japanese star Copano Kicking (the US) returns to defend his crown from last year and will face stiff opposition from Nakayama G3 Capella Stakes winner, Dancing Prince (Japan), and the Richard Baltas-trained Ginobili (the US).

The Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc also features a strong field, including last year’s fourth-placed Glorious Journey (Great Britain), Japanese-trained Songline (Japan), as well as Royal Ascot Wokingham Stakes winner Rohaan (Great Britain).

The locally trained Alnaader (Saudi Arabia) has been making waves on the track in the Kingdom this season and is unbeaten in four career starts, including when winning the domestic Group 1 King Abdullah Cup last time out. He is set to line up in the $1.5 million Group 3 Saudi Derby presented by Al Rajhi Bank.

The Saudi Cup card also features the $2 million Obaiya Arabian Classic presented by Lexus, which has been upgraded to Group 2 status after being run as a Listed contest last season.

There has been a strong entry with horses from France, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman joining locally trained runners. Saudi hopes look to lie with Tilal Al-Khalediah, while the Didier Guillemin-trained Deryan (France) and Nass runner Rb Rich Lyke Me (the US) are sure to pose a threat.

Friday, Feb. 25 sees 14 of the world’s top international riders – seven female and seven male – compete in the stc International Jockeys Challenge, with jockeys including last year’s winner Shane Foley as well as Glen Boss, Hayley Turner, and Jessica Pyfer already announced.

The $500,000 Saudi International Handicap presented by Al Rajhi Bank, has once again attracted a strong group of runners, with horses from Norway, Bahrain, Uruguay, Qatar, Greece, and Spain joining locally trained Saudi runners.

Tom Ryan, director of strategy and international racing for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “We are thrilled with the list of likely runners for this year’s Saudi Cup meeting. It really highlights the international appeal of the event and shows that the biggest owners, trainers, and jockeys in the world are increasingly looking toward Saudi Arabia.

“If Mishriff can retain his crown in The Saudi Cup, it would be a fantastic story for horse racing, but he will have to be at his best with some brilliant horses entered from Japan, Europe, the US, and elsewhere.

“After such a difficult year in 2021, we are delighted to be able to welcome racing fans from around the globe back to King Abdulaziz Racecourse. Everyone has worked incredibly hard to ensure the success of the event this year and that The Saudi Cup continues to showcase the best in world horse racing,” he added.

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