The second edition of the world’s richest horse race, the $20million Saudi Cup over 1800m on the Riyadh dirt track, was a thriller with early leader Charlatan embroiled in a dual with Mishriff throughout the long straight, the latter gaining the upper hand in the final 75m under David Egan.
Runner-up in the 1600m Saudi Derby on the card last year, the 4yo Make Believe colt then returned to Europe winning three consecutive races, most notably the 2000m French Derby at Chantilly. He then detested the heavy ground in the Champion Stakes.
That was in the middle of October and this was his seasonal return but he was clearly prepared to perfection by John Gosden who trains him in Newmarket for Prince A A Faisal.
Space Blues initiated a Godolphin double, his class shining through in the 1400m stc 1351 Turf Sprint under William Buick for Charlie Appleby, denying last year’s winner Dark Power, representing Bahrain.
Appearing in public for the first time since landing the 1300m Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauvill in August, the 5yo entire son of Dubawi has now won each of his five most recent starts.
Appleby said: “We are absolutely delighted with that. We knew he was a class horse coming into the race and he had a lovely draw.
“He travels for fun, watching the race there. I’ll be interested to see what William has to say because obviously Dubai World Cup night has to be taken into consideration.”
Saeed bin Suroor and Pat Cosgrave then teamed up with Gifts Of Gold who ran out the cosy winner of the 3000m Red Sea Turf Handicap with Appleby’s Secret Advisor third under Buick to give Godolphin a 1-3.
Bin Suroor said: “This was the plan since January when racing started in Dubai. I thought he would be the perfect horse. The pace of the race wasn’t that fast and that suited him and he finished the race off really well.”
Earlier, Willie Mullins and Hollie Doyle combined to land Saturday’s curtain raiser, the Neon Turf Cup, a 2100m conditions race, with True Self who flew home to snatch victory.
The first of the dirt track features, the 1600m Saudi Derby, went to Japan, courtesy of Pink Kamehameha, partnered by Keita Tosaki for Hideyuki Mori.
Then Buick completed a memorable double for himself and Japan when producing the Akira Murayama-trained Capano Kicking with a withering late run to deny compatriot Matera Sky, also second in the race last year for Tosaki and Mori, in the 1200m Riyadh Dirt Sprint.
Switzerland was a fine third for RRR Racing and Satish Seemar, holding every chance entering the final 200m under Mickael Barzalona but fading in the final 75m.
The challengers came from Bahrain, Spain and the Czech Republic but it was the Saudi Arabian-trained Petrus who landed Friday’s inaugural running of the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap sponsored by Al Rajhi Bank.
Also on the Friday, Irish star of the saddle Shane Foley emerged triumphant in the second International Jockeys’ Challenge after winning half of the four legs, each worth $400,000, in the competition.