The likely runners for the $35.1 million Saudi Cup meeting on February 25-26 have been announced, with horses from 16 racing countries set to compete in Riyadh.
King Abdulaziz Racecourse will host 16 races on its dirt and grass tracks, and the highlight of the meeting, the $20 million Group 1 Saudi Cup, is set to be contested by the winners of 16 Group 1 races from six countries.
The peloton is led by three-time Group 1 winner and Saudi Arabian Cup champion last year, Irish-bred Mishriff. A historic second victory in the race would see the John and Thady Gosden-trained racer surpass Winx and become the highest-earning racehorse of all time.
Winner of the Group 1 Champion Stakes last season, Sealiway of France will make his debut under trainer Francis-Henri Graffard after leaving the stable of Cédric Rossi.
Japan’s chances of winning a first Saudi Cup hinge on TO Keynes, trained by Daisuke Takayanagi, an impressive winner from his last start in the Grade 1 Champions Cup in Chukyo in December, and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner from grade 1, Marche Lorraine. Coach Yoshito Yahagi has indicated his six-year-old daughter will be making her final start in Saudi Arabia as she tries to end her career with another victory at the highest level.
Once again, there was a strong American contingent, led by Brad Cox’s Mandaloun, who defeated little of Steven Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes last month. US Grade 1 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 rider in the Saudi Cup.
The field is completed by Emblem Road, a locally trained American horse, and Making Miracles from the UK, a former Chester Cup winner who qualified by winning the last National Cup in Group 1 Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques.
Plenty of other top horses are set to take their place in Riyadh, across a map that includes six more group races.
In the $1.5 million Group 3 Neom Turf Cup presented by Jahez, British Group 1 runner-up Hong Kong Vase Pyledriver will look to do better for trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick. Strong French participation includes Ebaiyra (USA), Eudaimonia (France) and Magny Cours (USA), while Bahrain-based coach Fawzi Nass is expected to be represented by Port Lions (Ireland), winners of the inaugural race of this race in 2020.
Ireland’s hopes of a meeting winner could rest with Sonnyboyliston and Princess Zoe (Germany) trained by Tony Mullins in the $2.5m Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap Group 3, where they will be joined by Nerium (Ireland) , Group 2 winner in Germany, and Maria Cristina Munoz’s Argentine Group 1 winner, Mirinaque (Argentina).
In the $1.5m Group 3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Saudia, Japanese star Copano Kicking (USA) returns to defend his crown from last year and will face stiff opposition from the winner of the Nakayama G3s Capella Stakes, Dancing Prince (Japan), and the Richard Ginobili (USA) formed by Baltas.
The Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc also features a strong field, including last year’s fourth-place finisher Glorious Journey (Great Britain), Japan-trained Songline (Japan), as well as Royal Ascot Wokingham Stakes winner Rohaan ( Britain).
Homegrown Alnaader (Saudi Arabia) have made waves on the Kingdom’s track this season and are unbeaten in four career starts, including the last time they won the Group’s King Abdullah Cup 1. He is expected to line up in the $1.5m Group 3 Saudi Derby presented by Al Rajhi Bank.
The Saudi Cup card also includes 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 was a strong entry with horses from France, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman joining locally trained riders. Saudi hopefuls are looking to lie with Tilal Al-Khalediah, while Didier Guillemin-trained Deryan (France) and Nass Rb runner Rich Lyke Me (USA) are sure to pose a threat.
On Friday February 25, 14 of the world’s top riders – seven women and seven men – will take part 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 again attracted a strong field of riders, with horses from Norway, Bahrain, Uruguay, Qatar, Greece and Spain joining trained Saudi riders locally.
Tom Ryan, Director of Strategy and International Racing for The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “We are delighted with the list of likely riders for this year’s Saudi Cup meeting. This really highlights the international appeal of the event and shows that the world’s top owners, trainers and jockeys are increasingly looking to 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 brilliant horses entered from Japan, Europe, the United States and beyond. .
“After such a difficult 2021, we are delighted to be able to welcome racing fans from around the world back to King Abdulaziz Racecourse. Everyone has worked incredibly hard to ensure the success of the event this year and to ensure that the Saudi Cup continues to showcase the best of horse racing in the world,” he added.