The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner White Abarrio (USA) is poised to renew rivalry with four of his vanquished combatants from the Santa Anita shakedown after the likely fields for the 2024 Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse were unveiled by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.
Five horses from 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic feature among the fourteen runners of $20m Group 1 event on Saturday, February 24, including representatives from the USA, Japan, Ireland and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
White Abarrio was always well placed when winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic for trainer Rick Dutrow Jnr last November. He is set to once again take on the Japanese runner-up Derma Sotogake (JPN), who returns to Riyadh after finishing third in last year’s Saudi Derby.
The eye-catching Breeders’ Cup hero will sport new colours on Saudi Cup night following a part-purchase of the-five-year-old by prolific local owner, Prince Faisal Bin Khaled Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and will be recognised during the race by the Prince’s familiar red colours with white epaulettes.
Japan’s Ushba Tesoro (JPN) the 2023 Group 1 Dubai World Cup champion and a staying on fifth in California is also amongst the likely runners in the 1800-metre event. The Noboru Takagi-trained star will line up with the Todd Fincher-trained Senor Buscador (USA) (seventh) and Brad Cox’s Saudi Crown, owned by Saudi’s Faisal AlQhatani of FMQ Stables who weakened off a hot pace to finish 10th but has wins in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes and the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby to his credit.
Bob Baffert took the silver medal in The Saudi Cup last year with the Amr Zedan-owned Country Grammer (USA) and is back again this time with National Treasure (USA), the Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up, recent conqueror of Senor Buscador in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the 2023 Preakness Stakes winner. The fourth place in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup, Hoist The Gold (USA), is set to travel for trainer Dallas Stewart, having winning form over Señor Buscador from the 2023 Grade 2 Cigar Mile.
In addition to Derma Sotogake, Japan have also put forward multiple Group 1-winner, Lemon Pop (USA), winner of Japan’s Grade 1 Champions Cup, a Saudi Cup qualifier, who meets former UAE Derby winner Crown Pride (JPN), and Meisho Hario (JPN) who defeated Crown Pride by a nose in June to become the first to land back-to-back runnings of the Local Grade 1 Teio Sho.
Leading Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien unleashes European Group 1-winner Luxembourg (IRE) onto dirt for the first time after he rounded off 2023 with a second in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup, while there are three likely local runners including Custodian Of The Two Holy Mosques winner Power In Numbers (USA) for trainer Ahmed Mohamoud from the Riyadh-based King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Sons Stables.
Former Baffert inmate, Defunded (USA) is entered to line-up for trainer Abdulaziz bin Khalid bin Mishriff and new owner Dr. Muhaideb Abdullah Almuhaideb's HDB Racing Stable, is likely to be joined by another US import, Carmel Road (USA) after he struck second time out in Saudi Arabia in the King Faisal Cup for trainer Abdullah Albadah.
Commenting on the runners attracted to The Saudi Cup this year, HRH Prince Bandar Bin Khaled Alfaisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia said:
“The Likely Fields Saudi Cup 2024 promise to offer a scintillating and fascinating renewal of the fifth Saudi Cup weekend across the two racecards. We are looking forward to hosting these incredible equine athletes at King Abdulaziz Racecourse and to putting on a showcase of international racing for our domestic audience here in Riyadh and the wider watching world.
“The increase in prize money and the upgrades to the Ministry of Culture Al Mneefah Cup, the Howden Neom Turf Cup and the Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint serve to demonstrate the progress of The Saudi Cup race meeting since its inauguration in 2020 and we look forward to the continued evolution of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia as a global racing jurisdiction, promoting and developing our sport domestically while contributing to the long-term future of racing on the international stage.
“I wish the best of luck to all horse connections as they put the final touches to their Saudi Cup campaigns and we wait with great anticipation for the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of February.”
A stellar field of 14 has also been assembled for the Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint with Bathrat Leon (JPN) back to defend his crown for Japan after he struck last year for trainer Yoshito Yahagi.
He is one four in the race for Japan and is set to once again face William Mott’s Casa Creed (USA) who is bidding for third-time lucky having twice finished runner-up in the newly-upgraded $2m Group 2.
Recent qualifier winner Cold Front (GB), is one of two local entries with the UK having two representatives including Group 1 Champions Sprint winner Art Power (IRE) and Ireland fielding the exciting mare Matilda Piccotte (IRE), after she signed off last her campaign with impressive all-the-way wins in Group company including the Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket.
Also elevated to Group 2 status is the Howden Neom Turf Cup, with its prize fund boosted to $2m, and the 2100-metre event has entries from Qatar, the UK, Japan, Bahrain the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Chief amongst them is the John and Thady Gosden-trained Jack Darcy (IRE), along with Japan’s Hearts Concerto (JPN) and Studley (JPN), and the Richard Fahey-trained Bahrain qualifier Spirit Dancer (GB).
Giavellotto (IRE) announced himself on the stayers’ scene with his win in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup last May and is one of three UK entries alongside Enemy (GB) and Roberto Escobarr (IRE) in the $2.5m Longines Red Sea Turf.
O’Brien also has UK St Leger fourth placed Tower Of London (IRE) in the 3000m event, while Team Japan have Breakup (JPN), Libyan Glass (JPN), Echt (JPN) and Iron Barows (JPN), with France represented by Big Call (USA) Al Nayyir (GB) and Skazino (FR).
The 1200-metre Group 3 Sports Boulevard Riyadh Dirt Sprint, worth $1.5m has attracted a field of 14 headed by recent runaway Dubai winner Tuz (USA), trained by Bhupat Seemar, who could be joined by fellow UAE runner Eastern World (IRE) for Ahmed Bin Harmash.
Japan has three entries including last year’s third Remake (JPN), with American interest lying with Forbidden Kingdom (USA), Bold Journey (USA) and Skelly (USA).
Saudi Arabia is strongly represented with five possible runners including recent trial winner Rebellious Stage (USA), but their strongest entry comes via the $1.5m Boutique Group Saudi Derby with local runners responsible for six of the 13 entries.
They include the highly consistent two-time Open winner, Mashhur (USA), trained by Bedan Al Subaie and the Athbah-owned Salam Alkhair (USA), with the USA responsible for Book’Em Danno (USA), Northern Flame (USA) and Bentornato (USA).
Japan’s interest lies with Yahagi’s Forever Young (JPN), Set Up (JPN) and Santano Phoenix (JPN).
Both Purebred Arabian races over the weekend now carry Group 1 status and the $2m Diriyah Gate Development Authority Obaiya Arabian Classic will feature the USA runner, Honey Proof (USA), clashing with Asfan Al Khalediah (KSA), Najeeb Al Zaman (FR), recent winner Vizhir (FR) and Dergham Athbah (UAE) among others.
Friday’s $1.5m Ministry of Culture Al Mneefah Cup has an 11-strong entry including the top-rated Tilal Al Khalediah (KSA), who last year ran away with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority Obaiya by over six lengths.
The $1.5m National Housing Company Saudi International Handicap over 2100m, has attracted a likely field of 14 with countries represented including Spain, Norway, the Czech Republic, KSA, Bahrain and Qatar.
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Tickets for The Saudi Cup weekend are on sale now: https://jcsa.sa/en/events/