Americans Drawn Midfield In Saudi Cup

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Maximum Security in Saudi Arabia | Saudi Cup

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They traveled thousands of miles to get there, but the four main American contenders will all start within feet of each other in Saturday’s inaugural $20-million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh after post positions were drawn Wednesday evening in Saudi Arabia. Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing’s champion filly Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) will break from post six, while 2019 champion 3-year-old Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) will break from post seven and Bob Baffert stablemates Mucho Gusto (Much Macho Man) and McKinzie (Street Sense) drew post eight and nine, respectively.

Maximum Security’s trainer Jason Servis said, “I’m good with the post. I probably would have preferred a little more outside but that’s fine. We were drawn seven in the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Haskell and now the Saudi Cup. We’ll see what happens.”

Trainer Bob Baffert was reflecting on the irony of the American contenders drawing side-by-side.

“I find it interesting that all the Americans drew together six, seven, eight and nine,” he said. “They’re going to have to bring their A-games; you can’t show up with your B-game.”

Also representing the U.S., Juddmonte Farm’s Tacitus (Tapit), who has impressed while training in the desert this week, drew post two.

“I think it’s fine for our horse,” said Riley Mott, who is deputizing for his father, trainer Bill Mott. “There are probably several others in the field that will show some early speed and he’ll get outrun to the front anyway, but it’s a long run into the turn and a long way for the jockeys to sort themselves out. I think It’ll be alright.

“We blew him out Tuesday,” Mott added. “He went in a pretty snappy time of :35 with a gallop-out of :48 3/5. He looked like he was galloping through the stretch. It didn’t seem he was going that fast, but good horses will do that. He’s generally not that aggressive of a work horse and he was by himself. Given those factors, it was very impressive.”

Tacitus, who made a habit of finding trouble for himself, while consistently hitting the board, in most of last year’s major sophomore races, will be making his first start since finishing third in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup last September at Belmont Park.

The gray colt, a son of Juddmonte’s champion Close Hatches (First Defence), has acclimated well since shipping to Saudi Arabia last week, according to the 28-year-old Mott.

“He settled in immediately,” Mott said. “He’s very professional in that regard. His appetite has been good, his temperature has been good. Legs are clean. He’s moving sound. He seems to get over the track very well. When the horse gets over it, he doesn’t seem to be ‘spinning his wheels’ or struggling. It seems like a good surface as far as I can tell.”

While Midnight Bisou, Maximum Security, and McKinzie will all be making their 2020 debuts in the 1800-meter Saudi Cup, Mucho Gusto is coming off an authoritative victory in the Jan. 25 GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who was on hand trackside in Riyadh for the first time Wednesday morning, said he has been impressed by the 4-year-old’s recent progress which culminated with the break-out win at Gulfstream Park last month.

“Mucho Gusto has really changed a lot,” Baffert said. “These last three months I’ve seen a big change in him. He’s filled out. He’s just changed for the better. You could tell from that last work right before the Pegasus Cup Invitational a light went on in him. The way he ran. He’s always shown up. He’s always run hard. He’ll be right there.”

Mucho Gusto will be making his second start for Prince Faisal Bin Khaled after beginning his career for Michael Lund Petersen, for whom he won four Grade III races at two and three.

Another veteran of the Pegasus World Cup card going postward in the Saudi Cup is the globe-trotting Irish mare Magic Wand (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who drew post 12 in the 14-horse field. The 5-year-old, campaigned by Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith, has won or placed in Group 1 races in Australia, Hong Kong, the U.S., Ireland, and France. She will be making her first start on dirt following a runner-up effort in the GI Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational.

Reflecting on the draw, Aidan O’Brien representative Pat Keating said, “There’s a big long straight and she’s very versatile. We’ve got a great jockey and the surface is very good out there. Hopefully we get a bit of luck.”

Godolphin’s Benbatl (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), a Group 1 winner on three continents, took to the dirt with aplomb in his most recent start, winning the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan Feb. 6. The 6-year-old will break from post three Saturday.

“It would mean a lot for us to win,” trainer Saeed Bin Suroor said. “It is the first ever Saudi Cup and the first big international race in Saudi. It is a very important race and would be important for us to see him run well and win. He has been a very good Group 1 horse for us and very versatile. I’m very happy with him and I think he will give a good run.”

The Saudi Cup will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 at Noon ET (DIRECTV ch. 219, Dish ch.150) with the undercard airing on TVG.The Saudi Cup will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 at Noon ET (DIRECTV ch. 219, Dish ch.150) with the undercard airing on TVG.

 

1 – Gold Dream
2 – Tacitus
3 – Benbatl
4 – North America
5 – Gronkowski
6 – Midnight Bisou
7 – Maximum Security
8 – Mucho Gusto
9 – McKinzie
10 – Chrysoberyl
11 – Great Scot
12 – Magic Wand
13 – Capezzano
14 – Mjjack

The second-richest race on Saturday is the $2.5-million Longines Turf Cup H. over 3000 metres on the grass. There is a strong European representation, including G1 Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), who drew stall one and French G1SW Call The Wind (GB) (Frankel {GB}) will leave from gate four.

1 – Cross Counter
2 – Prince of Arran
3 – Called To The Bar
4 – Call The Wind
5 – Dee Ex Bee
6 – Hibou
7 – Contango
8 – Twilight Payment
9 – Downdraft
10 – Mekong
11 – Mafaaheem
12 – True Self
13 – King’s Advice
14 – Dramatic Device

The Saudi Cup will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 at Noon ET (DIRECTV ch. 219, Dish ch.150) with the undercard airing on TVG.

 

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