2021 Saudi Cup Pick: Charlatan

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.

Saudi Cup Pick: Charlatan

Post position: TBD

Odds: 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

Color: Chestnut

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.

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