Saudi contenders fly flag in Dubai for World Cup night

Saudi contenders fly flag in Dubai for World Cup night
Saudi contenders fly flag in Dubai for World Cup night

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DUBAI: Saudi Cup winning jockey Junior Alvarado is relishing the chance to add a second major Middle East title to his resume when he and Senor Buscador line up alongside some of the best in the world at the G1 Dubai World Cup this Saturday.

Reflecting on an extraordinary night at King Abdulaziz Racecourse earlier this year, Alvarado said: “Turning in I had a lot of ground to make up, so I was a little worried. In Senor Buscador’s case, I came round the outside and I was following Ushba Tesoro. I was then attempting to finish in the minor places which would’ve been good, but then I thought second would be great and all of a sudden 50 meters before the wire, I thought ‘I have a chance here.’ I went all out, and he kept digging, he fought and got to the wire first.”

Recounting his experience Alvarado called the Saudi Cup “great, second to none” and said he was looked after well from the moment he landed in the Kingdom.

“I love the racetrack, it’s probably one of the most beautiful tracks ever,” he added. “As for the dirt track itself, I thought it felt very safe and even when being held up behind other horses, the kick back was not an issue. I felt there was a lot of cushion in the ground which helps the horses.

“I would love to return to ride in Saudi again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I had a beautiful experience there; everything was handled brilliantly and the racing is on another level.”

Alvarado expressed confidence that Senor Buscador would adapt to the new challenge of Dubai and his attempt to land the Middle Eastern double.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to ride in Dubai, so I don’t know how different the surface is compared to Saudi, but from watching race replays, I think Senor Buscador will handle the dirt completely fine,” he said. “If anything, the track will favor us because of the nice long straight as he’s a big horse that keeps coming and coming.”

“The Dubai World Cup is going to be competitive,” said Alvarado. “I don’t think I can point out one horse in particular, but the danger would be if there’s not enough pace. The pace will play a big factor, and we will try to avoid traffic when it’s time to make a run. He’s always going to show up and he’s going to run a big race, so there isn’t a specific horse to be scared of in the field.”

Another major story on Saudi Cup night was the Richard Fahey-trained Spirit Dancer backing up his win in the Bahrain International Trophy by landing the G2 Howden Neom Turf Cup for owners Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and Peter Done.

Fahey and connections are now looking forward to running their son of Frankel in the G1 Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night.

“Everything’s going great. Looking at the videos and speaking to the lad out there, I believe he’s come on in his coat and his demeanor, he’s in very good form,” Fahey said.

“He did have five weeks to acclimatize from his first run this season to the Neom Turf Cup and it’s nearly another five weeks again. We’re very lucky to be able to have him there because it’s more or less the same climate in the Middle East and he’s had time to settle into a good routine — he’s loving his time there. It’s an easier preparation to do it there than from here.

“He definitely runs in the Sheema Classic. It was always in the back of my mind to go to a mile-and-a-half. You’d have every confidence that he should stay. He relaxes and in all his races he’s always finished well.

“We are in at G1 level, so it will be a huge ask, but we’ve had a nice prep and it’s always nice coming there off the back of a win. I’m really looking forward to seeing him run.”

Fahey too had high praise for the Saudi Cup meeting and the way he and all those connected with Spirit Dancer have been treated in the Middle East.

“The whole Saudi Cup meeting was exciting and there was a great atmosphere. I’m just pinching myself at the moment and enjoying the trip. We’re very lucky to have the opportunity to do this, and we have to come together and thank Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Bahrain, as they’re giving us fantastic opportunities and all three countries have looked after us fantastically well.”

Other Saudi Cup night winners on show at Meydan include Ballydoyle’s Tower of London, who triumphed in the Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap; and the Yoshito Yahagi-trained Forever Young, a winner of the Boutique Group Saudi Derby.

In addition, there are Sports Boulevard Riyadh Dirt Sprint winner Remake; the 17-race unbeaten Purebred Arabian Asfan Al-Khalediah, who won the Diriyah Gate Development Authority Obaiyah Arabian; and Tilal Al-Khalediah the winner of the Ministry of Culture Al-Mneefah Cup.

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