Plum Draws For American Saudi Cup Challengers

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The $20 million Saudi Cup is the world's richest race | Mahmoud Khaled

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Pegasus World Cup and Breeders' Cup Mile winner Knicks Go (Paynter) will jump from gate five in Saturday's $20 million Saudi Cup, with key rival Charlatan (Speightstown) also drawn well in nine. Splitting the two in gate seven is Tacitus (Tapit), one of two horses in the 14-runner field to be starting in the world's richest race for the second time. 

Commenting on the first international runner for the Brad Cox stable, the trainer's assistant and Knicks Go's track rider Dustin Dugas, said, “We like it, it's right in the middle. He's a speed horse, it's a long way until they get to the turn. Joel [Rosario, jockey] will have a lot of ground to work at before he gets to the turn.”

Bob Baffert's assistant Jimmy Barnes was similarly pleased with Charlatan's position. “I spoke to Bob earlier and he said anything, six, seven, eight or nine would be perfect,” Barnes commented. “The one-turn mile and an eighth would just be perfect.”

Bill Mott's assistant Neil Poznansky is the daily rider of Tacitus, who was fifth in the inaugural Saudi Cup. He said of the 5-year-old, “He doesn't run a bad race. He has Johnny V [Velazquez] on him and he has the whole backside to work a trip on him.”

Last year's G1 Prix du Jockey Club winner Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}) leads the European challengers and he will jump from stall 11 under David Egan, one outside the Bahrain Trophy winner Simsir (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}), trained in Bahrain by Fawzi Nass. 

Thady Gosden, assistant trainer to his father John, said of Mishriff (IRE), who was runner-up in last year's Saudi Derby before his French Classic success, “It's fantastic to be here at the Saudi Cup meeting and to bring him back here for the second time. It's a really top-class race this year. We were hoping for a fairly wide draw. The American horses have far more gate speed than ours, so we're very happy with that.”

Gosden will also saddle Global Giant (GB) (Shamardal), drawn six, for Isa Salman Al Khalifa of Al Adiyat Racing. Speaking at the draw, the Bahraini owner said “He has been improving with every start but he would have to run the race of his life to be competitive. It is an honour to be involved. The two winners for Bahrain at last year's Saudi Cup was the highlight of my racing life so far.”

Completing the quintet of American-trained runners in the race, Steve Asmussen's representative Max Player (Honor Code) was handed gate four, while Sleepy Eyes Todd (Paddy O'Prado) is in eight.

The sole Japanese runner, the Ryuji Okubo-trained Chuwa Wizard (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) has the inside draw, one in from King Power Racing's Bangkok (Ire) (Australia {GB}) for the Andrew Balding stable. At the other end of row and widest of all is Imad Al Sagar's runner Extra Elusive (GB) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}). Trained by Roger Charlton, the 6-year-old is the partner of Hollie Doyle, who becomes the first woman to ride in the Saudi Cup.

Saudi trainer Abdullah Mushrif has two chances in the race: Great Scot (GB) (Requinto {Ire}) lines up for the second time in stall three, and reserve Derevo (GB) (Dansili {GB}) in 13. The Musabbah Al Mheiri-trained Military Law (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) completes the set in gate 10.

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