In the days leading up to the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 20, usracing.com will profile the contenders in the world’s richest horse race. The profiles will be updated with odds, post positions and jockeys following the post-position draw on Wednesday [Feb. 17].
By Ed McNamara
He’s had a solid career in England but he’s way out of his league in the world’s richest race. He’s been in good form lately, going 2-for-3 with a second at 1 1/4 and 1 3/16 miles on synthetic surfaces at Lingfield and Wolverhampton, minor-league outposts. This will be his debut on dirt, so throwing him in against stars like Knicks Go and Charlatan is wildly ambitious.
After odds-on favorite Bangkok closed well for Ryan Moore to take the Winter Derby Trial on Feb. 6 at Lingfield, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power offered 50-1 odds on him to win the Saudi Cup. Looks like an underlay to me.
“Bangkok is a class horse and did that very well under Ryan,” trainer Andrew Balding said. “He’s received an invitation for the Saudi Cup, and the plan is to fly him out there. He’s never run on dirt, so we’ll have to see how he handles it, but he enjoys the all-weather and he’s pretty versatile.”
As a 3-year-old, Bangkok won a Group 3 in England and was second twice there in other graded stakes on the turf. He’d be better suited for one of the lucrative grass races at the Saudi Cup festival, where he’d have a shot at finishing in the top three. As for the $20 million main event, no chance.
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Andrew Balding
Owner: King Power Racing
Career record: 18-4-6-1
Career earnings: $254,496
Top Equibase speed figure: NA
Pedigree: Australia-Tanaghum, by Darshaan
Running style: Speed/stalk
Notes: Balding, 48, is from a family that has been big time for a long time in racing. He’s won major stakes in America, Canada, England, Germany, Dubai, Hong Kong, Turkey, and Australia. In 2003, his first year on his own, he took the Epsom Oaks, one of the five English classics, with Casual Look. Balding trained last year’s 2,000 Guineas winner, Kameko, who finished seventh as the 5-1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Mile … He’s the son of Ian Balding, whom he succeeded at Kingsclere in 2003. Ian, 83 and retired, trained all-time great Mill Reef, who swept the Epsom Derby, King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1971 … Andrew’s older sister, Clare Balding, is an England-based journalist and television presenter.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.