by Jeremy Plonk
February 17, 2021
A capacity field of 14 starters entered today for Saturday’s second edition of the $20 million Saudi Cup, the headliner among 8 stakes worth at least $1 million each. Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup winner Knicks Go will start from post 5 over the 1-1/8 miles trip. Xpressbet and 1/ST BET will have full-card wagering on the action from Riyadh.
The 1-1/8 miles races at Riyadh begin on a backstretch chute that makes this a 1-turn race similar to what you see at Belmont Park. There’s about a 5-furlong run on the straight before the only left-hand turn. There’s more than ample time to get position, leaving the starting positions relatively insignificant. The lone turn is an expansive bend, so saving ground around it can be beneficial.
Front-running Knicks Go shares the marquee, and potentially the front end of the Saudi Cup, with Charlatan, who starts from post 9. Jockey intent will be important here, but being outside among this pair is likely some advantage. Charlatan from the outer draw likely applies the outside pressure to Knicks Go, drawn to his inside, at some point. Knicks Go certainly is the more committed front-runner of the pair and will be put on the track where his rider wants him into the far turn.
Knicks Go has won all 4 starts in 2020-’21, including the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in back-to-back starts. Charlatan has crossed the wire comfortably first in all 4 career starts, but was disqualified from May’s Grade 1 Arkansas Derby for a post-race positive test.
The American contingent also includes Tacitus (post 7), Max Player (post 4) and Sleepy Eyes Todd (post 8). Tacitus returns to Riyadh after a fifth-place finish here a year ago and has earned more than $3.2 million as a multiple Grade 2 winner. Max Player, third in the Grade 1 Belmont before fifth in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, makes his first start since October. Sleepy Eyes Todd is a Grade 2 winner of nearly $900,000 and has started in 10 different US states prior to this international roadtrip.
American runners were 4 of the first 5 across the wire last year led by Maximum Security and Midnight Bisou. Godolphin’s Benbatal was the best non-American finisher, placing third. Top world challengers in 2021 include Mishriff (post 12), last year’s Saudi Derby runner-up on dirt and French Derby hero on turf for renowned trainer John Gosden.
The first of 8 races from Saudi Cup Day begins at 8AM ET with post time for the Saudi Cup at 12:40PM ET. Race 6 will be the Saudi Derby (11:10AM ET) and includes Steve Asmussen-trained Cowan, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, Springboard Mile and Smarty Jones Stakes.
Saudi Arabia // Race 8 // 12:40PM ET // $20 Million Saudi Cup // 1-1/8 miles
PP // Horse // Jockey // Trainer // Country
1 // Chuwa Wizard // Keita Tosaki // Ryuji Okubo // Japan
2 // Bangkok // Ryan Moore // Andrew Balding // England
3 // Great Scot // Adel Alfouraidi // Abdullah Mushrif // Saudi Arabia
4 // Max Player // Umberto Rispoli // Steve Asmussen // United States
5 // Knicks Go // Joel Rosario // Brad Cox // United States
6 // Global Giant // Frankie Dettori // John Gosden // England
7 // Tacitus // Bill Mott // United States
8 // Sleepy Eyes Todd // Miguel Silva // United States
9 // Charlatan // Mike Smith // Bob Baffert // United States
10 // Military Law // Antonio Fresu // Musabbeh Al Mherir // United Arab Emirates
11 // Simsir // Adrie de Vries // Fawzi Nass // Bahrain
12 // Mishriff // David Egan // John Gosden // England
13 // Derevo // Christian Demuro // A.M. Al Kahtani // Saudi Arabia
14 // Extra Elusive // Hollie Doyle // Roger Charlton // England
Check out Johnny D’s horse-by-horse analysis of the Saudi Cup in this week’s On Track blog, posted Thursdays at Xpressbet.com.
Xpressbet and 1/ST BET will offer a Saudi Cup Day Money Back Guarantee, up to $10 per race, on your win bets throughout the entire card. If your win bet finishes second or third, you will receive up to $10 per race back into your account. See Xpressbet.com and the 1/ST BET app for details.