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 Lynne Snierson
Max Player, originally an alternate to the race, received his full invitation at the end of January and then headed to Saudi Arabia on Feb. 8. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who finished second in last year’s inaugural event with champion mare Midnight Bisou, hopes his colt can end up in the winner’s circle.
It’s been a year since the 4-year-old son of 2015 Eclipse Award-winner Honor Code tasted victory, and that was in the 2020 Withers (G3) when trained by Linda Rice. After finishing third in both of his next two starts, the Belmont Stakes (G1) and the Travers Stakes (G1), he was transferred to Asmussen and subsequently ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Preakness (G1) while not having the best of trips in either.
Max Player has been ridden by five different jockeys in his seven races and Asmussen confirmed California-based Umberto Rispoli will be in the irons for the first time at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
Max Player, idle since the Preakness on Oct. 3, would be the fresh horse in a field loaded with speed. Asmussen, who also has Cowan set to run in the Saudi Derby on the undercard, said that fresh is precisely how he wants to run the late-closing Max Player. And if a big effort happens, he will go on to contest the Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 27.
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Umberto Rispoli
Owner: George Hall and Sport BLX Thoroughbreds Corp.
Age: 4 (colt)
Career record: 7-2-1-2
Career earnings: $495,000
Top Equibase speed figure: 106
Pedigree: Honor Code-Fools in Love, by Not for Love
Color: Dark Bay
Running style: Closer
Notes: Breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00 on Feb. 7 at the Fair Grounds, where he was been working steadily since mid-December. The work was the second fastest of 51 horses at the distance …Owner George Hall, the founder and president of a Manhattan-based investment firm, previously partnered with ex-wife Lori on horses and their biggest win was in the 2011 Belmont (G1) with Ruler on Ice at 24-1. It is Hall’s only G1 score to date. The Halls also owned Grade 2 winner Pants on Fire, who ran the final six races of his career at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in 2018 without a victory. Pants on Fire was bred by Hall’s K&G Stables, which he named for his children, Katherine and George, and K& G also bred Max Player … Sport BLX Thoroughbreds is a micro share selling syndicate co-founded by Hall and Joseph De Pario, which owns 13.6% of Max Player and three other horses. The group is raising additional capital to by another stake in him, according to the website.
Lynne Snierson, a former director of communications at Arlington Park and Rockingham Park, currently is a freelance writer and racing publicist. She covered thoroughbred racing as an award-winning sportswriter for newspapers In Boston, Miami, and St. Louis. She lives in New Hampshire. Secretariat remains her all-time favorite horse.