By Richard Rosenblatt

Top choices Charlatan and Knicks Go drew favorable post positions Wednesday for the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, the world’s richest horse race.

Charlatan, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, will break from the No. 9 post on Saturday under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith.

“Just about perfect for him [Charlatan],’’ said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s assistant who is in Riyadh.

Winner of the Malibu Stakes (G1) in his 4-year-old debut, Charlatan has been made the 7-5 favorite by BUSR.com. The son of Speightstown has finished first in all four of his starts [he won a division of the Arkansas Derby but was disqualified after failing a post-race test].

Knicks Go, trained by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, drew the No. 5 post in a field of 14 entered for the second running of the 1,800-meter (about 1 1/8 miles) race on the dirt.

The 5-year-old won the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park last month and is the 5-2 second choice by BUSR.com. He will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Since Cox took over as trainer, Knicks Go is 4-for-4.

“We like it, it’s right in the middle,’’ said Cox’s assistant Dustin Dugas. “He’s a speed horse, it’s a long way till they get to the turn, Joel will have a lot of ground to work at before he gets to the turn.”

The other U.S.-based horses drew well, also: Max Player leaves from the No. 4 post in the one-turn race; Tacitus from gate 7; and Sleepy Eyes Todd from gate 8.

Extra Elusive and Hollie Doyle – Photo Courtesy of Saudi Cup

Extra Elusive, who will be ridden by Hollie Doyle, drew the outside No. 14 post, while Japan’s Chuwa Wizard leaves from the inside No. 1 post.

“He is a versatile horse and can run from any position,’’ said Keita Tosaku, Chuwa Wizard’s jockey. “So, the inside draw may help us.”

Roger Charlton, trainer of Extra Elusive, likes his spot, too: “I’m happy with the draw for Extra Elusive in stall 14. He hasn’t run on the dirt before, and he’s probably a horse who doesn’t like to be crowded that much, so I think that gives him and Hollie a good shot down the outside.”

Also entered are Bangkok, Great Scot, Global Giant, Military Law, Simsir, Mishriff, and Derevo, a last-minute entry for the late Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms. [Alzahzaah had been listed as a local entry but was not entered].

Mishriff, trained by John Gosden and winner of the 2020 French Derby (G1), is the third betting choice, listed at 7-1 by BUSR.com. All other runners are 10-1 are higher, with Great Scot the longest shot at 50-1.

Earlier Wednesday, Charlatan jogged an easy 1,600 meters at the training track near the quarantine area.

“He’s a very good traveler. That hasn’t been any kind of a factor,’’ said Barnes. “The weather has been pleasant. It hasn’t been hot so that always makes the trip easier. [We’ve] been here over a week and ready to get it on.”

Knicks Go, who also won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) to close out 2020, went for a one-lap jog around the main track earlier Wednesday under Dugas.

“He’s had two good works since the race and seems to be moving well,” said Cox, who will not be at the race. “He’s continued since the Pegasus to show us what he showed us prior to the Pegasus and prior to the Breeders’ Cup. This race is back a little quick, but one thing that gives us confidence is that he won the Pegasus without Lasix and this race is without Lasix, too.”

Saudi Cup Profiles

[listed by post position] Profiles compiled by Margaret Ransom, Lynne Snierson and Ed McNamara

CHUWA WIZARD

Chuwa Wizard, a 6-year-old son of King Kamehameha, was the Japan Racing Association’s (JRA) dirt champion of 2020 and will be making his 2021 debut after winning the Champions Cup (G1), a Saudi Cup “Win & You’re In” event at Chukyo in his most recent start Dec. 6. He will be Japan’s lone starter in the $20 million race.

Chuwa Wizard has won or placed in of 11 black-type events. In addition to the Champions Cup, he captured the Heian (G3) at Kyoto and was second in the Tokyo TV Hai Okai (G2) at Chukyo. He also won last year’s JBC Classic and Kawasaki Kinen, the 2019 Diolite Kinen and the 2018 Nagoya Grand Prix.

Chuwa Wizard, who was bred in Japan by Norther Racing, is out of the Durandal mare Chuwa Blossom. He is owned by Shinobu Nakanishi and trained by Ryuji Okubo.

Post position: 1

Odds: 10-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Ryuji Okubo

Jockey: Keita Tosaki

Owner: Shinobu Nakashani

Age: 6

Career record: 18-10-3-4

Career earnings: $4,535,789

Top Equibase speed figure: N/A

Pedigree: Paynter-Kosmo’s Buddy, by Outflanker

Color: Gray

Running style: Stalker/midpack runner

Notes: Shipped to Dubai a year ago to contest the Dubai World Cup before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions, and he then spent seven months on the shelf… only unplaced finish was a fourth in last year’s Champions Cup, which was formerly known as the Japan Cup Dirt … he was his late sire’s 12th Group 1 winner and 80th black-type winner overall.

BANGKOK

He’s had a solid career in England but he’s way out of his league in the world’s richest race. He’s been in good form lately, going 2-for-3 with a second at 1 1/4 and 1 3/16 miles on synthetic surfaces at Lingfield and Wolverhampton, minor-league outposts. This will be his debut on dirt, so throwing him in against stars like Knicks Go and Charlatan is wildly ambitious.

After odds-on favorite Bangkok closed well for Ryan Moore to take the Winter Derby Trial on Feb. 6 at Lingfield, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power offered 50-1 odds on him to win the Saudi Cup. Looks like an underlay to me.

“Bangkok is a class horse and did that very well under Ryan,” trainer Andrew Balding said. “He’s received an invitation for the Saudi Cup, and the plan is to fly him out there. He’s never run on dirt, so we’ll have to see how he handles it, but he enjoys the all-weather and he’s pretty versatile.”

As a 3-year-old, Bangkok won a Group 3 in England and was second twice there in other graded stakes on the turf. He’d be better suited for one of the lucrative grass races at the Saudi Cup festival, where he’d have a shot at finishing in the top three. As for the $20 million main event, no chance.

Post position: 2

Odds: 25-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Andrew Balding

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Owner: King Power Racing

Age: 5

Career record: 18-4-6-1

Career earnings: $254,496

Top Equibase speed figure: NA

Pedigree: Australia-Tanaghum, by Darshaan

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Balding, 48, is from a family that has been big time for a long time in racing. He’s won major stakes in America, Canada, England, Germany, Dubai, Hong Kong, Turkey, and Australia. In 2003, his first year on his own, he took the Epsom Oaks, one of the five English classics, with Casual Look. Balding trained last year’s 2,000 Guineas winner, Kameko, who finished seventh as the 5-1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Mile … He’s the son of Ian Balding, whom he succeeded at Kingsclere in 2003. Ian, 83 and retired, trained all-time great Mill Reef, who swept the Epsom Derby, King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1971 … Andrew’s older sister, Clare Balding, is an England-based journalist and television presenter.

GREAT SCOT

A year ago, Great Scot looked hopelessly overmatched in his dirt debut in the 1 1/8-mile Saudi Cup. And he was because he finished 12th of 14 in his first attempt beyond a mile. He was two spots from the money, and 10th place was worth $200,000. In the Saudi Cup, you don’t have to win or even finish in the top five to make a big score.

Great Scot’s chances don’t appear any better this year, and the notion he can compete with stars like Knicks Go and Charlatan is absurd.

Post position: 3

Odds: 50-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Abdullah Mishrif

Jockey: Adel Alfouraidi

Owner: Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz

Age: 5

Career record: 15-7-1-2

Career earnings: $280,036

Best Equibase speed rating: N/A

Pedigree: Requinto-La Rosiere, by Mr Greeley

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Great Scot was 3-for-3 on turf at Haydock, a second-level track in northern England, before being sold to Prince Faisal so he could run in last year’s Saudi Cup. He was 1-for-8 elsewhere in Europe and he’s 2-for-3 with earnings of $26,666 in Saudi Arabia … Prince Faisal, a 66-year-old native of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, went to college in Northern California, where he graduated from the College of San Mateo. He is the former governor of Azir, a region in southwest Saudi Arabia.

MAX PLAYER

Max Player, originally an alternate to the race, received his full invitation at the end of January and then headed to Saudi Arabia on Feb. 8. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who finished second in last year’s inaugural event with champion mare Midnight Bisou, hopes his colt can end up in the winner’s circle.

It’s been a year since the 4-year-old son of 2015 Eclipse Award-winner Honor Code tasted victory, and that was in the 2020 Withers (G3) when trained by Linda Rice. After finishing third in both of his next two starts, the Belmont Stakes (G1) and the Travers Stakes (G1), he was transferred to Asmussen and subsequently ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Preakness (G1) while not having the best of trips in either.

Max Player has been ridden by five different jockeys in his seven races and Asmussen confirmed California-based Umberto Rispoli will be in the irons for the first time at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

Max Player, idle since the Preakness on Oct. 3, would be the fresh horse in a field loaded with speed. Asmussen, who also has Cowan set to run in the Saudi Derby on the undercard, said that fresh is precisely how he wants to run the late-closing Max Player. And if a big effort happens, he will go on to contest the Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 27.

Post position: 4

Odds: 16-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Umberto Rispoli

Owner: George Hall and Sport BLX Thoroughbreds Corp.

Age: 4 (colt)

Career record: 7-2-1-2

Career earnings: $495,000

Top Equibase speed figure: 106

Pedigree: Honor Code-Fools in Love, by Not for Love

Color: Dark Bay

Running style: Closer

Notes: Breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00 on Feb. 7 at the Fair Grounds, where he was been working steadily since mid-December. The work was the second fastest of 51 horses at the distance …Owner George Hall, the founder and president of a Manhattan-based investment firm, previously partnered with ex-wife Lori on horses and their biggest win was in the 2011 Belmont (G1) with Ruler on Ice at 24-1. It is Hall’s only G1 score to date. The Halls also owned Grade 2 winner Pants on Fire, who ran the final six races of his career at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in 2018 without a victory. Pants on Fire was bred by Hall’s K&G Stables, which he named for his children, Katherine and George, and K& G also bred Max Player … Sport BLX Thoroughbreds is a micro share selling syndicate co-founded by Hall and Joseph De Pario, which owns 13.6% of Max Player and three other horses. The group is raising additional capital to by another stake in him, according to the website.

KNICKS GO

After his impressive 2 ¾-length victory in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) last month, which followed an eye-popping score in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland in November, this Brad Cox-trained son of Paynter certainly stamped himself one of the best older horses in training.

The gray 5-year-old has won all four starts in Cox’s care since an Oaklawn Park allowance win a year ago. Knicks Go, who was bred in Maryland by Angie Moore, was purchased by the Korean Racing Authority for $87,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2017 and has now amassed an impressive bankroll of $3,088,995.

Previously trained by Ben Colebrook, Knicks Go won the 2018 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland as a juvenile and then was second in BC Juvenile (G1). He was considered a top Kentucky Derby candidate but was unable to return to his 2-year-old form and didn’t make the gate for the Run for the Roses. He had one more start for Colebrook – a 10th-place finish in the Commonwealth Turf (G3) at Churchill Downs in 2019 — before being moved to Cox, where he only started three times due to an ankle injury suffered early in the year.

“Everything is going in the right direction. He’s carrying his weight well and I’m happy with the way he’s moving,” Cox said. “The great horses like him are what you wake up for every morning. He’s a fantastic horse and hopefully an international horse after February 20.”

Knicks Go arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday [Feb. 10] with the rest of the American contingent and will get his toes into the King Abdulaziz Racetrack surface this weekend. Trainer Brad Cox, who will not be at the race, told TVG on Monday [Feb. 15] that Knicks Go went out for a breeze in the morning with the trainer’s assistant Dustin Dugas, and “he was excited about how he worked.’’

“It’s the first time we’ve run a horse on the other side of the world so there’s always a little bit of a concern, but I don’t really feel it will be with him,’’ Cox said recently. “He’s got a great mind on him and he ships well. He obviously shipped to Gulfstream (for the Pegasus) in good order and he doesn’t get worked up – he knows when to shut it off and when to turn it on.”

Post position: 5

Odds: 5-2 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Owner: Korea Racing Authority

Age: 5 (horse)

Career record: 18-6-3-1

Career earnings: $3,088,995

Top Equibase speed figure: 121

Pedigree: Paynter-Kosmo’s Buddy, by Outflanker

Color: Gray

Running style: Frontrunner

Notes: Cox isn’t traveling to Saudi Arabia, and instead will be at Oaklawn Park over the weekend to watch two of his champions run — Essential Quality in the Southwest Stakes (G3) and Monomoy Girl in the Bayakoa (G3) … Had his final pre-shipping workout at his winter base of Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Feb. 6, logging 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 … He got his name not from the NBA’s New York Knicks, but rather a Korean breeding system. The “K” is for Korea and the “nicks” is from a bloodstock term referencing the successful breeding of certain pedigree lines that produce successful offspring. And the “Go” refers to the frontrunning style of his sire … He’s only made one start at this distance in his career, winning the Pegasus World Cup.

GLOBAL GIANT

The paternal grandson of Giant’s Causeway was purchased privately from Ed Dunlop’s yard in 2019 by HH Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain and transferred to the formidable John Gosden. At the time, the target for Global Giant was the second running of the Bahrain International Trophy race in November 2020. His Highness, the eldest son of the Bahrain crown prince and second in the line of succession to the throne, is one of the organizers of that race.

Since joining Gosden, the horse has won two of four starts. In his last start in the Bahraini race, he was up against an accomplished international field that included five Group 1 winners and gave a fine account of himself under Frankie Dettori. Global Giant closed willingly to just miss and was the runner-up to the locally trained Simsir.

Nonetheless, that race was contested over the turf, and at 1 ¼ miles. Global Giant has been successful on the grass and the all-weather tracks in England. If Gosden, who will saddle Mishriff in the Saudi Cup, decides to also run Global Giant here instead of the Middle Distance Turf Cup on the undercard, the horse must handle the surface switch and shorten up in distance in the 1 1/8 miles Saudi Cup, which is a one-turn race.

Post position: 6

Odds: 40-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: John Gosden

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Owner: Al Adiyat Racing (Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa)

Age: 6 (horse)

Career record: 17-4-3-3

Career earnings: $142,051 (US)

Top Equibase speed figure: N/A

Pedigree: Shamardal- Aniseed, by Dalakhani

Color: Bay

Running style: Off the pace

Notes: Three starts back, on July 19, 2020 Global Giant beat 2021 Saudi Cup entrant Extra Exclusive in the Steventon Stakes in England. Next time out on Aug. 8 he was third behind winner Extra Exclusive in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes (G3) … Gosden’s son and assistant, Thady, often travels with Global Giant and is directly involved in his race preparations … John Gosden is considered one of the finest and most accomplished international trainers of his generation with more than 100 G1 winners and 3,000 overall victories in Europe, the United States, the Middle East, and Asia. He is based at Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket, England. His prestigious wins include the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Epsom Derby, the Epsom Oaks, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the King George VI Stakes.

TACITUS

He’s earned more than $3.2 million but may have burned that much in win bets. He’s never finished worse than fifth while losing 10 of his last 11 races. He hasn’t been worse than fourth in a Grade 1 but is 0-for-7 at that level. He has a championship pedigree without ever coming close to winning one.

So often he appeared ready to make the big breakthrough, but it always waits until next time for the best-looking underachiever you’ll ever see. Once again here comes that poor little rich horse, Tacitus.

In October 2019, Juddmonte Farms racing manager Garrett O’Rourke agreed that calling his regally bred 3-year-old a disappointment was “the understatement of the year.”

Last year wasn’t any better, as Tacitus went 1-for-6 and lost five straight times as the favorite. The bettors finally wised up and sent him off at 21-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, when he ran a distant fourth. The worst finish of his career (fifth) was in last year’s Saudi Cup. He’s back for another try at 1 1/8 miles, and with a new rider, Hall of Famer John Velazquez.

“Tacitus ran a good race last year, and hopefully we can get a better position in the first part of the race,” Velazquez said. “Knicks Go and Charlatan look really tough and like to go forward. Hopefully, they go too fast and we can sit not too far back before coming down the lane.”

Ladbrokes’ early line has Tacitus at 10-1. If you [like me] have lost many times on him, maybe bet a few bucks defensively just in case everything finally falls into place. Just don’t count on it.

Assistant trainer Riley Mott is deputizing for his father, Bill, at the Saudi Cup. “He’s been a little frustrating,” Riley Mott said. “He always flirts with winning a top Grade 1. We think he is capable of it.”

That’s the story of Tacitus’ life.

Post position: 7

Odds: 14-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: John Velazquez

Owner: Juddmonte Farms

Age: 5

Career record: 15-4-4-3

Career earnings: $3,247,500

Top Equibase speed figure: 111

Pedigree: Tapit-Close Hatches, by First Defence

Color: Gray/roan

Running style: Midpack rallier

Notes: Tacitus was bred and owned by the master of Juddmonte Farms, the fabulously successful Prince Khalid Abdullah, who died last month at 83 … “Any time we lead a horse over there in Juddmonte’s silks it is very special,” Riley Mott said. “Last year when we brought Tacitus, he had a nice little local following due to the fact that he was a Juddmonte horse. He had a lot of fans there on race day.” … Worked 5 furlongs in 1:03.60 on Feb. 6 at Payson Park Training Center in Florida.

SLEEPY EYES TODD

In the sometimes-affluent world of thoroughbred racing and breeding, this handsome gray son of Paddy O’Prado is the definition of Rags to Riches.

Owner David Cobb [Thumbs Up Racing], on the advice of trainer Jonathan Wong, purchased Sleepy Eyes Todd as a weanling from Keeneland in November of 2016 for $9,000 and sent him to longtime clients Gerald and Dr. Jackie Rich in central Texas, where he was raised and then broken before being sent to Silva’s care in Oklahoma.

Sleepy Eyes Todd – Credit Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia // Douglas DeFelice

Since then, the now 5-year-old horse has crisscrossed the country, starting at 11 different tracks in his 16 career starts, winning half and earning $889,825 in the process. Some of his more significant victories were in last year’s Charles Town Classic (G3), Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland and Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

His last effort was an even fourth-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), which led to his invitation to the Saudi Cup. Overall, Sleepy Eyes Todd is a consistent type, hitting the board 10 times, and he’s versatile, having won at distances from 6 ½ furlongs in his successful maiden debut in 2018 to the 9-furlong Charles Town Classic.

This will be Cobb’s first trip internationally as an owner as he seeks a first Grade 1 win with his first-ever graded stakes winner. And though Silva has saddled more than 720 winners from over 4,200 starters, Sleepy Eyes Todd is so far his only graded winner as well.

Post position: 8

Odds: 20-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Miguel Angel Silva

Jockey: Alexis Moreno

Owner: Thumbs Up Racing Inc. (David Cobb)

Age: 5 (horse)

Career record: 16-8-2-0

Career earnings: $889,825

Top Equibase speed figure: 121

Pedigree: Paddy O’Prado—Pledge Mom, by Wild Rush

Color: Gray

Running style: Closer

Notes: Got his name from former president Donald Trump insults referring to NBC’s Meet the Press moderator and MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd as “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd” … Sleepy Eyes Todd is a half-brother to stakes winner Wildeydsouthernboy.

CHARLATAN

This brilliant colt, along with Authentic and Nadal, gave Bob Baffert an undefeated trio that might have run 1-2-3 if the Kentucky Derby had not been postponed four months by the pandemic. Charlatan never has finished anywhere but first in four starts, but a lidocaine positive took away his Arkansas Derby win. The disqualification was announced in mid-July, six weeks after Baffert took him off the Triple Crown trail because of a minor ankle problem.

After a layoff of nearly eight months, Charlatan returned Dec. 26 with a 4 1/2-length runaway in the Grade 1, 7-furlong Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

“That was just pure brilliance that we witnessed today,” Baffert said. “What he did today was incredible. Hopefully, we will have a good year with him.”

He’s the latest in an endless string of stars for Baffert, who skipped the $3 million Pegasus World Cup last month to point for the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 20.

Charlatan and front-running Knicks Go, winner of the Pegasus and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, will be the favorites. Charlatan proved he could stalk and fire in the Malibu, when he ran down and left behind undefeated sprinter Nashville, so expect jockey Mike Smith to use the same tactics against Knicks Go. It shapes up as a matchup worthy of the $10 million winner’s share in the world’s richest race.

Post position: 9

Odds: 7-5 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Mike Smith

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Frederick Hertrich, John Fielding, Golconda Stables

Age: 4 (colt)

Career record: 4-3-0-0

Career earnings: $247,000

Top Equibase speed figure: 115

Pedigree: Speightstown-Authenticity, by Quiet American

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Speed/stalk

Notes: Worked 7 furlongs in 1:24.60 at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 … Charlatan would have won the Malibu by seven or eight lengths if Smith hadn’t geared him down in the final 100 yards. It was the Hall of Famer’s first time on the colt. “I always thought he was an extremely special horse,” Smith said. “I always wanted a chance to ride him.” … Baffert is upbeat about his chances in Riyadh. “The Saudi Cup is perfect timing for Charlatan,” he said. “A mile and an eighth is the perfect distance, we know he ships well and he’s a good gate horse. He’s maturing and getting really good now. I think his talent makes up for his inexperience.” … Baffert finished fourth with Mucho Gusto and 11th with McKinzie last year in the first Saudi Cup.

MILITARY LAW

Bred in Britain, Military Law comes into the Saudi Cup on the heels of bang-up 1 ¼-length win in Round 1 of the Grade 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Series at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on Jan. 21. With the victory he lived up to the promise he displayed last year when runner-up in both Rounds 2 and 3 of that series.

The impressive come-from-behind performance with a determined late drive by the son of Dubawi, who was making his first start since March 2020, was the clincher that propelled him into this race. He is the leader of the sizeable and forceful contingent of Dubai-based runners entered on the eight-race card.

“I have been riding him every day since last year. He always gave me a strong feeling. He was running well last season but this year he is stronger and looking better,” said jockey Antonio Fresu, who has been aboard for all of his last five races in Dubai and gets the return call.

Military Law is another in the line of former British-trained turf horses who have found a home on dirt tracks since switching surfaces from the grass and all-weather tracks. Previously owned by breeder Qatar Racing, he ran his first six races in England for trainer John Gosden, who has entered Global Giant and Mishriff in the Saudi Cup.

Post position: 10

Odds: 12-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Musabbeh Al Mheiri

Jockey: Antonio Fresu

Owner: Nasir Askar

Age: 6 (gelding)

Career record: 11-5-3-0

Career earnings: $430,626

Top Equibase speed figure: N/A

Pedigree: Dubawi-Marine Bleue, by Desert Prince

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Had an easy canter in Dubai before the short ship to Riyadh on Feb. 16 and his trainer said that for the rest of this week, he will ease the horse into the race … Original owner Qatar Bloodstock entered Military Law in Book 1 of the Tattersalls October 2016 sale but retained him to race when he did not meet his reserve price of $1,213,475 … After his June 2019 win over the all-weather track at Newcastle, his second victory in six efforts in England, he was sold for $114,641 to his current owner, who dispatched him to Dubai. Subsequently, he was won three times in five tries at Meydan.

 

SIMSIR

He pulled off a huge, gutsy upset in beating a handful of Group 1 winners in the $673,000 Bahrain International Trophy last November, so who says Simsir can’t do it again in the $20 million Saudi Cup?

Bred in Ireland and now based in Bahrain after being purchased privately last summer by owners Victorious and trainer Fawzi Nass, Simsir was a gallant winner in that race. The 5-year-old gelding gave up the lead with about 100 meters to go but fought back and beat John Gosden-trained Global Giant by a neck, with Aidan O’Brien-trained Sovereign a close third and another Nass trainee, Port Lions fourth.

The win was so impressive that Nass, who also keeps a stable in Dubai, is looking for another big score in Saudi Arabia. Last year, he won the first ever turf race at the track with Port Lions upsetting Deirdre, Japan’s star mare, in a race now called the Neom Turf Cup.

Simsir gets his chance to step up again on Saturday.

“Simsir is doing well. He’s had an easy time since winning the Bahrain International Trophy in November, so we thought, if we’re going to go to Saudi, we needed to get a run into him,’’ said Nass.

He ran in the Crown Prince Cup and finished fourth in a race over 2,000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles); the Saudi Cup is about 1 1/8 miles.

“He finished a close fourth,’’ said Nass. “Things didn’t go his way, he missed the break and he had to come from behind, which doesn’t suit a galloping horse like him. He didn’t disgrace himself and we’re happy with that being his prep run for Saudi Cup.”

Post position: 11

Odds: 30-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Fawzi Nass

Jockey: Adrie de Vries

Owners: Victorious, Fawzi Nass

Age: 5 (gelding)

Career record: 11-4-3-0

Career earnings: $509,870

Top Equibase speed figure: N/A

Pedigree: Zoffeny-Simawa, by Anabaa

Color: Bay

Running style: Frontrunner

Notes: Simsir’s former trainer was Ireland’s Michael Halford before being purchased in July 2020 after finishing fifth in the Northfields Handicap at the Curragh … Simsir arrived in Riyadh on Monday night [Feb. 15], and went “out for a trot on the small track next to the quarantine. He is in good form. I think he traveled well, he ate up his food last night, so all is good,’’ said Nass … Nass on the weekend Saudi Cup meeting: “[It] is very important, especially for us in Bahrain, as we look at Saudi Arabia as the mother country. It’s always a pleasure to participate in those events in Saudi Arabia, so it would be nice if we can win another race again.”

MISHRIFF

Versatile Irish-bred colt won the Group 1 French Derby last year and was second in his dirt debut, the mile Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. His trainer, Englishman John Gosden, has won major races all over the world, including five in the Breeders’ Cup. The best of his many stars was the mare Enable, winner of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) a month after her second victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Europe’s most prestigious race.

“Mishriff has always been a grand horse and he worked nicely last year going into the Saudi Derby,” Gosden said. “It was his first time on dirt, so you never know.

“I think he’s very much a 10-furlong horse — he’s got a great stride, great tactical speed and a powerful finish. But this is 9 furlongs.””

Mishriff tends to break slowly, and Gosden is concerned about falling too far behind Knicks Go and Charlatan.

“The American horses are very fast over the first [quarter mile], and you really don’t want to be getting in behind all of that,” he said. “If you get a basin full of dirt in your face, that’s what stops turf horses from switching to the dirt, as they’re not used to taking all that kickback.”

Post position: 12

Odds: 7-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: John Gosden

Jockey: David Egan

Owner: Prince A. A. Faisal

Age: 4

Career record: 8-4-1-1

Career earnings: $980,954

Top Equibase speed figure: N/A

Pedigree: Make Believe-Contradict, by Raven’s Pass

Color: Bay

Running style: Midpack rallier

Notes: Gosden, 69, was based in Southern California in 1984 when he won the first Breeders’ Cup Mile with the filly Royal Heroine at Hollywood Park … He took the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita with Raven’s Pass, sire of Mishriff … Gosden has won the Arc three times and has trophies from 11 British classics — the Derby (2), St. Leger (5), Oaks (3) and 1,000 Guineas. He was Britain’s champion trainer in 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2019 … Mishriff hasn’t run since an eighth-place finish Oct. 17 in the Grade 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot. Gosden blamed the uncharacteristically poor performance on the extremely soft ground. 

DEREVO

This well-bred gelding closed powerfully last Saturday to win by a nose in the King’s Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, so at least you know he handles the track.

He cuts back a furlong after running 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.15. He showed great determination while making up a big deficit with an extended wide surge down the middle of the track.

Like Tacitus, who returns after running fifth in last year’s Saudi Cup, Derevo was bred by Juddmonte Farms.

The King’s Cup was the fourth win in 12 starts for Derevo and his first on a conventional dirt surface. He won twice on synthetic tracks in England and once on turf. He never faced anything close to the level of competition he will have Saturday.

Post position: 13

Odds: 40-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute

Jockey: Christian Demuro

Owner: Prince Faisal bin Khaled

Age: 5 (gelding)

Career record: 12-4-2-1

Career earnings: $176,019

Best Equibase speed rating: N/A

Pedigree: Dansili-Pavlosk, by Arch

Color: Bay

Running style: Midpack rallier

Notes: His trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is one of the greatest horsemen in the long history of British racing. Stoute, 75, has won dozens of major races around the world as well as 18 English classics, including five Epsom Derbies. He was champion trainer in England 10 times, and among his top horses were Shergar, Singspiel and North Light. In 2010 he won the Epsom Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Workforce, and Stoute owns eight Breeders’ Cup trophies.

 

It was a bit of a surprise that Imad Al Sagar’s homebred Extra Elusive got his invitation to the event, but now that he has, his connections are good to go in this spot rather than run in the Middle Distance Turf on the undercard.

“Having discussed it with the owner, he’s very keen to run in it,” trainer Roger Charlton told race officials. “Over 1,800 meters they’ll go very, very quick and the kickback will be something he hasn’t experienced before. We’re hoping we can get amongst the money.”

“In the past he has inclined to be up at the front making the running – this obviously won’t be the case so a wider draw would probably be beneficial to keep him out of the kickback.”

Rising star Hollie Doyle, who has been aboard for Extra Elusive’s last four starts, will partner with him again.

“I’d like to think he’ll handle the dirt as he goes well on slow ground here in England. I’m not sure how similar it would ride to a slow turf track, but I’d prefer to ride him on the dirt than I would on the turf as you’d imagine it will be slower,’’ said the 24-year-old, who broke her own British record for a female jockey with 117 wins in 2020 and notched her first Royal Ascot victory and first Grade 1 win.

Extra Elusive won two Grade 3’s last summer under Doyle. Last out he was sixth in the Qipco Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot in October and the trip note said that he made no impression in the final furlong.

“He had a break after the end of last season and the weather hasn’t been very helpful to us – we’ve had snow here twice,’’ Charlton said. “He didn’t resume exercise until after Christmas and it’s been a steady build-up. He does all his training by himself, but he seems in good form. It’s important that he’s in a consistent and steady routine every day.”

Post position: 14

Odds: 33-1 (BUSR.com)

Trainer: Roger Charlton

Jockey: Hollie Doyle

Owner: Imad Al Sagar

Age: 6 (gelding)

Career record: 16-5-4-2

Career earnings: $111,456 (British pound sterling)

Top Equibase speed figure: N/A

Pedigree: Mastercraftsman-Nessina, by Hennessy

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Frontrunner

Notes: Imad Al Sagar is a Kuwaiti native holding executive positions in the insurance and gas and oil industries in the Middle East. With longtime friend Saleh Al Homaizi, who got him into the sport, he established the England-based Blue Diamond Racing and Blue Diamond Stud in 2010. Blue Diamond has enjoyed enormous success in just a decade, winning multiple G1 races in Europe, including the Epsom Derby, and owning a Cartier Award winner…He has about 30 horses in training with Charlton, John Gosden, Roger Varian, and Amy Murphy and all are by top sires …Retaining Doyle as stable rider is viewed as a career defining move for her … She competes in the International Jockey Challenge the day before the Saudi Cup … Charlton is based at Beckhampton Stables in England and has trained two Epsom Derby winners and 17 G1 winners.



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