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 Saudi Cup Contenders will be updated with odds, post positions and jockeys following the post-position draw on Wednesday [Feb. 17].
By Ed McNamara
Versatile Irish-bred colt won the Group 1 French Derby last year and was second in his dirt debut, the mile Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. His trainer, Englishman John Gosden, has won major races all over the world, including five in the Breeders’ Cup. The best of his many stars was the mare Enable, winner of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) a month after her second victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Europe’s most prestigious race.
“Mishriff has always been a grand horse and he worked nicely last year going into the Saudi Derby,” Gosden said. “It was his first time on dirt, so you never know.
“I think he’s very much a 10-furlong horse — he’s got a great stride, great tactical speed and a powerful finish. But this is 9 furlongs.””
Mishriff tends to break slowly, and Gosden is concerned about falling too far behind Knicks Go and Charlatan.
“The American horses are very fast over the first [quarter mile], and you really don’t want to be getting in behind all of that,” he said. “If you get a basin full of dirt in your face, that’s what stops turf horses from switching to the dirt, as they’re not used to taking all that kickback.”
Saudi Cup 2021 Contender: Mishriff
Post position: TBD
Trainer: John Gosden
Jockey: David Egan
Owner: Prince A. A. Faisal
Career record: 8-4-1-1
Career earnings: $980,954
Top Equibase speed figure: N/A
Pedigree: Make Believe-Contradict, by Raven’s Pass
Running style: Midpack rallier
Notes: Gosden, 69, was based in Southern California in 1984 when he won the first Breeders’ Cup Mile with the filly Royal Heroine at Hollywood Park … He took the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita with Raven’s Pass, sire of Mishriff … Gosden has won the Arc three times and has trophies from 11 British classics — the Derby (2), St. Leger (5), Oaks (3) and 1,000 Guineas. He was Britain’s champion trainer in 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2019 … Mishriff hasn’t run since an eighth-place finish Oct. 17 in the Grade 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot. Gosden blamed the uncharacteristically poor performance on the extremely soft ground.
Saudi Cup 2021 Contenders
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.