THE SECOND STAGING of the Saudi Cup meeting, headlined by the $20m Saudi Cup, unsurprisingly has attracted a stellar list of equine stars from across the globe. After a successful inaugural event last year, the meeting, held over two days at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on 19 and 20 February, has been expanded significantly in 2021 with increased prize money and a new race, resulting in an even stronger list of entries than 12 months ago.
The highlight will once again be the $20m Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable race. The 1800m contest has attracted some high profile entries, such as Kenny McPeek’s top class Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver, 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Knicks Go and Charlatan, the winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.
More than 100 horses from nine countries and a total of 17 Group One winners have been entered for the feature race on the dirt and they also include last year’s Saudi Derby runner-up Mishriff, while Japan’s recently crowned 2020 Dirt Horse of the Year, Chuwa Wizard, is another who could be set to line up having gained an automatic spot for the Saudi Cup when winning last month’s Champions Cup.
The 2019 Dubai World Cup runner-up Gronkowski, now in the care of Abdulaziz Khalid in Saudi Arabia, has been entered to run in the meeting’s highlight again after finishing tenth last year under Frankie Dettori. The locally trained winner of the 2020 Dirt Sprint, New York Central, has been entered in the Saudi Cup this year. Also entered is local hero, Alzahzaah, trained by Shaleh Alotalbi, winner of his last four starts, the latest being the domestic Grade 1 Crown Prince Cup last month.
The $1.5m Saudi Derby has also attracted a host of well regarded types, including multiple Grade One winner Jackie’s Warrior, last seen finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, as well as the horse that finished two places ahead of him that day, the Doug O’Neill-trained Hot Rod Charlie. Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Tiger Tanaka is also entered for the race.
Over 2100m, the $1m Middle Distance Turf Cup entry list includes Bill Mott’s multiple Grade One winner Channel Maker as well as Dubai Warrior, Extra Elusive and Sangarius. Port Lions, trained in Bahrain by Fawzi Nass, is also entered as he bids to win the race for a second year running.
Channel Maker also has the option of the $2.5m Long Distance Turf Handicap, run over 3000m, which boasts over 70 entries from around the world and also includes the 2020 victor Call The Wind, international globetrotter Prince Of Arran and English St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco.
Group 1 July Cup winner Oxted, trained in the UK by Roger Teal, is entered in both the $1.5m Dirt Sprint, over 1200m, and $1m 1351 Turf Sprint, where he could face the Godolphin-owned Space Blues for Charlie Appleby. Neil Drysdale’s Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes victor Oleksandra is also entered in the Turf Sprint along with last year’s winner Dark Power, trained by Allan Smith.
Justin, who earned an automatic spot for the Dirt Sprint when winning the Grade 3 Capella Stakes last month could contest that race, while the Purebred Arabian entries in the $2m Obaiya Arabian Classic, over 2000m, are headlined by the Group One-winning Messi, trained by Timo Keersmaekers in Belgium and last year’s winner Tallaab Al Khalediah, trained locally by Mutlaq bin Mushref.
Tom Ryan, director of strategy and international racing for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, was excited by the quality of talent entered for this year’s event. “We are absolutely thrilled with the final entry list for this year’s Saudi Cup meeting, especially given the challenges everyone has been faced with over the past 12 months.
“Considering this is only the second year of a new international racing event, both the quality and depth of entries has grown significantly, and there is some really strong momentum behind the meeting. We have seen marked improvements across the board but most satisfying to us is the support that our turf races and the Saudi Derby have received.
“The Saudi Cup itself is fascinating with exciting entries from the USA, Japan, Europe and the Maiddle East, while we are delighted with the response to our new race, the Saudi International Handicap, which gives an opportunity for horses trained in part two and three racing countries to compete on the global stage.”