By Richard Rosenblatt
Bigger, stronger, and well rested, Mishriff is ready to take on some of the world’s top horses as he attempts to win the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) for the second time on Saturday.
Mishriff, who edged Charlatan in a stirring finish to take the 2021 Saudi Cup, drew the far outside post in the 14-horse field entered Wednesday for the richest race in the world.
While the post may seem a tough one to overcome, Ireland-bred Mishriff won the race from post 11 last year.
Gambling is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, but BUSR lists Mishriff as the 2-1 favorite. Regular rider David Egan has the call aboard Mishriff.
“Obviously it’s not ideal, but last year he was drawn in 12 before winning so hopefully on Saturday he’ll jump well and get into a good place in the backstretch,” Thady Gosden, who trains the horse with his father, John, said of the post position. “It’s a very competitive looking renewal of the race. He comes here in good form and still shows plenty of enthusiasm.”
Mandaloun set to step forward
Mandaloun, now the official 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner, drew post 6 for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, and is listed at 9-2 by BUSR. The 4-year-old comes into the Saudi Cup off victories in the Pegasus Stakes, the Haskell (G1), and the Louisiana Stakes (G3) last month.
“I think he needs to take another step forward, and I think he can,’’ Cox, who arrived at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh earlier in the day, said. Cox added that a five-month layoff after the Haskell, and the solid win in his 4-year-old debut sets up perfectly for the 1 1/8-mile Saudi Cup.
Other U.S.-based entries include Bill Mott-trainer Art Collector (post 9, 8-1), Bob Baffert-trained Country Grammer (post 1, 12-1), and Steve Asmussen-trained Midnight Bourbon (post 3, 9-1).
“We’ve had futures betting on the Saudi Cup for months and all the money have been for the 3 M’s, Mishriff, Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon,’’ BUSR spokesman James Ross said. “Of course, our customers are always looking for an American winner on big international races. And Brad Cox‘s Mandaloun is a potential six-figure loss in our book already. We took an $8k bet on Mandaloun at 12-1 in January, and we expected to see continued support for the 4-year-old at 9-2 despite the central draw he’s received coming out of stall 6.”
The race will be broadcast live by FOX Sports’ FS2. There are eight races on Saudi Cup Day, with total purses of $31.5 million. Post time for the Saudi Cup is 12:40 p.m. ET.
Marche Lorraine, the 5-year-old mare who won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at 49-1, drew post 13 for trainer Yoshito Yahagi. He’s 12-1 at BUSR.
Asked about the outside draw, Yahagi said: “I don’t care.”
Asked why he chose to bring Marche Lorraine to the Saudi Cup, he quipped: “Because it’s the richest race in the world.”
Also entered from Japan is T O Keynes, leaving from post 8 and listed at 7-1 by BUSR. The 5-year-old is the top dirt horse in Japan.
South America has its first Saudi Cup runner in Brazil-bred Aero Trem, considered the best horse on the continent while racing primarily in Uruguay. He’s at 40-1.
Catching up with Mishriff
Mishriff comes into the race off a fourth-place finish in the Champions Cup at Ascot back on Oct. 16. Gosden decided to skip the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) after the Ascot race, and he has been training well in the leadup to Saturday’s race.
“Mishriff has done well over the winter,” John Gosden said a few weeks ago. “He’s a 5-year-old and as you would expect, he’s thickened out even more.”
Added Ted Voute, racing manager for owner Prince Faisal: “He’s got an amazing constitution. John said to me he’s even stronger.”
Baffert hoping for a winning result
Baffert learned earlier this week that his 2021 Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit was disqualified after a post-race test found a banned race-day medication in his system. Last year, he watched as Charlatan was beaten in the final strides by Mishriff in the Saudi Cup.
He hopes Country Grammer comes through on Saturday.
“I liked what I saw,” Baffert said after watching the horse (as well as Saudi Derby entry Pinehurst) breeze over the track on video. “They shipped well and they’re moving well and that’s what you want to see in the final work. The reports I’m getting from my team there is that they’re happy with how they went, came back and cooled out.”
Earnings record in reach for Mishriff
Mishriff has a chance to become racing’s all-time earnings leader with a victory. With the $10 million winner’s share (he already has earnings of $15,167,491), he would top Australia’s super mare Winx’s record of $18,904,364. A runner-up finish earns his $3.5 million, which would put him about $237,000 short of Winx’s record.
The Saudi Cup field, by post position, with trainers, jockeys, and BUSR odds
1 Country Grammer (Bob Baffert, Flavien Prat), BUSR odds: 12-1
2 Aero Trem (Antonio Cintra, Vagner Leal), BUSR odds: 40-1
3 Midnight Bourbon (Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario), BUSR odds: 9-1
4 Real World (Saeed bin Suroor, Frankie Dettori), BUSR odds: 14-1
5 Emblem Road (Mitab Almulawah, Wiggy Ramos), BUSR odds: 66-1
6 Mandaloun (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux), BUSR odds: 9-2
7 Magny Cours (Andre Fabre, Mickael Barzalona), BUSR odds: 10-1
8 T O Keynes (Daisuke Takayanagi, Kohei Matsuyama), BUSR odds: 7-1
9 Art Collector (Bill Mott, Luis Saez), BUSR odds 8-1
10 Making Miracles (Mitab Almulawah, Alex Moreno), BUSR odds: 40-1
11 Sealiway (Francis-Henri Graffard, Ryan Moore), BUSR odds: 14-1
12 Secret Ambition (Bhupat Seemar, Tadgh O’Shea), BUSR odds: 25-1)
13 Marche Lorraine (Yoshito Yahagi, Christophe Soumillon), BUSR odds: 12-1
14 Mishriff (John and Thady Gosden, David Egan), BUSR odds: 2-1
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.