Mishriff on Track For Saudi Cup Title Defence

Mishriff | Racingfotos.com

Prince Faisal's 2021 $20-million Saudi Cup hero Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}) is in excellent form ahead of his defence of his crown in the 2022 edition, the first time the race has been accorded Group 1 status. The John and Thady Gosden runner took the G1 Sheema Classic at Meydan last March, and was third in Sandown's G1 Eclipse S. July. Second to Adayar (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) in the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. on July 24, he bounced back to win the G1 Juddmonte International S. a month later. In his final 2021 start, the 5-year-old was fourth in the G1 Champion S. at Ascot on Oct. 16.

“He's a year older and a little bigger, but he's been training well up to the race so far so let's hope it continues like that,” said co-trainer Thady Gosden. “It's more of a challenge being the middle of winter over here. We've been lucky to avoid the snow so far, but it has been cold and frosty. It's more straightforward in a warmer climate, but we're lucky it hasn't been too cold here.

“We'll get the Saudi hurdle out of the way and then there are two possible races on World Cup night, the Sheema Classic and the [G1 Dubai] World Cup itself and I'm sure Prince Faisal will know which he'd like to go for.

“Then we've got a long season here so there's a few bridges to cross before we start thinking of the Breeders' Cup.”

Another Gosden runner pointed to the Saudi Cup meeting at the end of February is dual Group 1 winner Lord North (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}). The winner of the 2020 G1 Prince of Wales's S. has not been seen in action since he captured the G1 Dubai Turf at the end of March and is aiming for the Neom Cup on the Saudi Cup undercard.

“Lord North had a bit of an issue and because he's a horse of such calibre we've given him all the time he needs, but he's back training well now and hopefully he gets to the Neom,” said Gosden. “He's bouncing around the place and he's pretty determined to get out there. It looks a tough field and Pyledriver ran exceptionally well in Hong Kong, but he's back to his old self.”

The G1 Coronation Cup winner Pyledriver (GB) (Harbour Watch {Ire}), who ran a heroic second in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase in December, is also training with an eye toward a start in the Neom Cup. His trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick sent the 5-year-old entire out for a spin over the Kempton all-weather prior to leaving for Saudi Arabia.

“We took him to Kempton today to let him have a blow over the surface to cover a distance of ground,” Muir said. “It was just to literally get him away from home for something different and a change of scenery, to perk him up and keep him in good shape.

“The horse is in great shape. It wasn't one of those gallops you want to put a gun to his head and say 'go'. It was just to let us cover the distance.

“Martin [Dywer] rode him and when he got off he said, after riding in races there over the winter, it felt like he broke the track record.”

The La Pyle Partnership colourbearer was under consideration for the Saudi Cup itself, but connections ultimately opted for the Neom Cup on turf.

“We had a long conversation, the owners and myself, and we are aiming to go from here to the Sheema Classic in Dubai,” Muir explained. “We felt to drop him back to a mile-one on dirt and then go back up to a mile and four would be giving different signals. We know a mile and a quarter on turf is fine so we thought we'd do that and then go onto the next target.”

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