By Richard Rosenblatt
The entries were announced on Wednesday for the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) on Feb. 26, and the list is a long one – 132 horses from 10 countries, including expected favorite Knicks Go from America, and champions Mishriff from Britain and Marche Lorraine from Japan.
Full entries list here
Obviously, the entry process is a bit different in Saudi Arabia than America. The invitations are out, and when the replies are received by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, the likely fields will be announced, about two weeks before the world’s richest race at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh.
The 6-year-old Knicks Go, a sure winner for American Horse of the Year (Eclipse Awards are announced Feb. 10), has been training for this race since his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on Nov. 5. He is trained by top conditioner Brad Cox and owned by Korea Racing Authority.
Ireland-bred Mishriff, longshot winner of last year’s Saudi Cup, is being pointed to the race again by trainers John and Thady Gosden. The 5-year-old won the Juddmonte International (G1) at York in August, and finished fourth in his last start, the Champion Stakes (G1), at Ascot on Oct. 16.
Marche Lorraine produced Japan’s second victory in the Breeders’ Cup when she won the BC Distaff (G1) at odds of 49-1. Trained by Yoshito Yahagi, the 5-year-old mare has become one of the most popular horses in Japan.
The entry list includes 33 horses from the U.S. Other than Knicks Go, Cox has eight other entries (Caddo River, Concert Tour, Mandaloun, Night Ops, Plainsman, Shared Sense, Warrant, and Warriors Charge); six trained by Todd Pletcher (Colonel Liam, Dr Post, Fearless, First Constitution, Happy Saver, and Life Is Good); four trained by Bob Baffert (Cezanne, Eight Rings, Spielberg, and Triple Tap); and two trained by Steve Asmussen (Midnight Bourbon and Super Stock).
Many horses on the list still have races to run before determination is made whether to move forward to the 1 1/8-mile Saudi Cup. Midnight Bourbon and Mandaloun, for example, are set to run Saturday in the Louisiana Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 22. Others on the Saudi Cup list could end up running in races on the undercard.
More than 700 horses from 22 countries were on the entry list for the $35.1 million Saudi Cup weekend races (Feb. 25-26), including 71 international Grade 1 winners.
This will be the third running of the Saudi Cup – and first as a Grade 1. Maximum Security won the inaugural race, but the winner’s purse remains on hold pending a decision on the horses’ former trainer Jason Servis, facing federal charges in a horse-drugging scandal.
Mishriff came along last year and edged Charlatan for the victory and the $10 million winner’s share. With $15 million in earnings, a repeat win would make Mishriff the highest earning racehorse, ahead of Australian champion Winx.
Overall, the U.S. has over 150 entries for the races, which include five Grade 3 events and the Grade 2 Obaiya Arabian Classic. The Grade 3’s: the $2.5 million Red Sea Turf Handicap (3,000 meters); the $1.5 Neom Turf Cup (2,100 meters); the $1.5 million 1351 Turf Sprint (1,200 meters); the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint (1,200 meters); and the $1.5 million Saudi Derby (1,600 meters).
Tom Ryan, Director of Strategy and International Racing at the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “We are also absolutely delighted to see that more countries have made entries, with 22 in total compared with 19 in 2021. That goes to show how quickly the Saudi Cup meeting has had an impact globally and become a key target for owners and trainers.”
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.