The most lucrative horse racing event in any calendar year will take centre stage in Riyadh later this month when it hosts the third staging of the Saudi Cup.
Qualified horses will have their chances to take a crack at the $20 million prize fund that’s up for grabs in the Saudi capital, where Mishriff rode to glory in last year’s edition of the race.
The final field of runners has yet to be cemented with a little less than three weeks before the February 26 meet, but already the bookmakers have been hard at work nailing down the favorites.
It’s no surprise to see the titleholder back in the saddle at the shortest odds, but just as Mishriff took the title from inaugural champion Maximum Security, a sea of talent lies waiting in the wings to steal his crown this year.
Texas News Today has whirled through the odds available on those leading runners with three weeks to go until the race, including the best prices available according to horse.bet.
Frontrunner: Mishriff (+350)
The reigning champion in Riyadh will have his chance to become the highest-grossing race horse of all time if he can successfully defend his title in Saudi Arabia—though that’s no small feat.
Since clinching the crown last year, trainer John Gosden’s star talent has won the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic and added the Juddmonte International Stakes to his list of credentials.
His most recent outing in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot went off piste as he finished a distant fourth in October, and the absence from competition since then could be a bit of a burden.
Ring rust may be something of a concern for the incumbent king ahead of his Riyadh return, although jockey David Egan may not think as much ahead of his reunion with the five-year-old star.
One to Watch: Real World (+1000)
Don’t be fooled by the fact Real World has yet to make his Group 1 debut ahead of the Saudi Cup, because the horse is developing a taste for overcoming obstacles thrown his way.
The Godolphin-owned entrant enjoyed a supreme second half of 2021, and after going four races without a win, has now won five in a row travelling to Riyadh:
Real World has won on different continents and with three different jockeys aboard across his last five races (all wins), starting 2022 as he means to go on with a confident Group 2 win in Meydan.
“He has come out of the race well. He is fresh and happy and I am happy with him,” said trainer Saeed bin Suroor following Real World’s most recent win in the Zabeel Mile in January.
“He was 90 per cent ready to go, which is why we started him over the mile. He showed some speed, but the best trip for him is a mile to a mile and a quarter
Sleeper: Country Grammer (+1200)
Trainer Bob Baffert will inevitably draw interest whenever he has a runner involved in the big-stakes events, and the Saudi Cup is nothing if not that.
It wasn’t even a year ago that the controversial mentor took Country Grammer off Chad C. Brown’s hands, and it wasn’t even six weeks later that the five-year-old had earned his maiden Group 1 win at the Hollywood Gold Cup:
“I rolled the dice, that’s why I didn’t run him [in the San Pasqual Stakes in Santa Anita],” Baffert said in early January, all but confirming Country Grammer will take part in the Saudi Cup.
Considering it’s been almost nine months since we last saw the horse compete, the +1200 odds look suitable, though one can’t help but wonder if there’s a superstar back in Baffert’s midst.
2022 Saudi Cup Runners
|T O Keynes