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
This brilliant colt, along with Authentic and Nadal, gave Bob Baffert an undefeated trio that might have run 1-2-3 if the Kentucky Derby had not been postponed four months by the pandemic. Charlatan never has finished anywhere but first in four starts, but a lidocaine positive took away his Arkansas Derby win. The disqualification was announced in mid-July, six weeks after Baffert took him off the Triple Crown trail because of a minor ankle problem.
After a layoff of nearly eight months, Charlatan returned Dec. 26 with a 4 1/2-length runaway in the Grade 1, 7-furlong Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.
“That was just pure brilliance that we witnessed today,” Baffert said. “What he did today was incredible. Hopefully, we will have a good year with him.”
He’s the latest in an endless string of stars for Baffert, who skipped the $3 million Pegasus World Cup last month to point for the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 20.
Charlatan and front-running Knicks Go, winner of the Pegasus and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, will be the favorites. Charlatan proved he could stalk and fire in the Malibu, when he ran down and left behind undefeated sprinter Nashville, so expect jockey Mike Smith to use the same tactics against Knicks Go. It shapes up as a matchup worthy of the $10 million winner’s share in the world’s richest race.
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Mike Smith
Owner: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Frederick Hertrich, John Fielding, Golconda Stables
Age: 4 (colt)
Career record: 4-3-0-0
Career earnings: $247,000
Top Equibase speed figure: 115
Pedigree: Speightstown-Authenticity, by Quiet American
Running style: Speed/stalk
Notes: Worked 7 furlongs in 1:24.60 at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 … Charlatan would have won the Malibu by seven or eight lengths if Smith hadn’t geared him down in the final 100 yards. It was the Hall of Famer’s first time on the colt. “I always thought he was an extremely special horse,” Smith said. “I always wanted a chance to ride him.” … Baffert is upbeat about his chances in Riyadh. “The Saudi Cup is perfect timing for Charlatan,” he said. “A mile and an eighth is the perfect distance, we know he ships well and he’s a good gate horse. He’s maturing and getting really good now. I think his talent makes up for his inexperience.” … Baffert finished fourth with Mucho Gusto and 11th with McKinzie last year in the first Saudi Cup.
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.