The Avengers: Five Americans Look To Take Back Saudi Cup

White Abarrio | Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia

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In the previous four runnings of the $20-million G1 Saudi Cup, American-based horses have–surprisingly–passed the post in first on a single occasion while finishing second on each occasion. That 'victory' came in the much-discussed inaugural running in 2020, a result that seems likely to soon be overturned, albeit to the benefit of another American horse.

So, even though the U.S. is the epicenter of world dirt racing, its five representatives this year arguably still have something to prove when a field of 14 loads the gate around 12:40 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon. And it's anything but a fait accompli that one of them gets their picture taken in the King Abdulaziz winner's enclosure a short time thereafter.

We will analyze America's chances in these pages and will have a look at the runners from defending champion Japan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, plus previews for Saturday's five other group races back in TDN Europe.

White Abarrio (Race Day) looks to become the first winner of the GI Breeders' Cup Classic to double up in Riyadh and races first-up since his defeat of the re-opposing Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits) at Santa Anita on the first Saturday of November. The 5-year-old really came to life at the back end of 2023, powering home in the Whitney prior to his Classic effort.

“We thought we had a chance of beating a couple of horses in the [Whitney],” trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. told the Saudi Cup notes team earlier this week. “We weren't expecting or hoping to beat Cody's Wish (Curlin), but two turns at Saratoga might not have been Cody's Wish's game, who knows, so we said we'd take a chance.

He continued, “But I never got to breeze him for the race, so we were like 10 days without breezing and you just show up. But we did breeze him the morning of [the race] and Irad [Ortiz] happened to be there watching. It wasn't my plan, I wasn't even there, I was on my way up because I had to train at Belmont but Irad caught it and he was wondering if we were going to scratch!” laughed the trainer.

“When I knew that we were coming here, it was like 11 days before we came and I was like man, they are playing into our hands because we don't need to breeze him,” the conditioner continued. “We can play the same game and right now I feel that he is over the trip and he's himself now.”

White Abarrio, who will carry the red-and-white silks of Prince Faisal Bin Khaled Bin Abdulaziz, has saddle cloth 14, but gate one, and he'll want to leave there running to be handy to a pace that maps above-average quick. Dutrow has expressed his intention to blow out his charge on race morning.

 

 

 

National Treasure is one of three in the race for Quality Road, who accounted for 2022 Saudi Cup stunner Emblem Road. The $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga grad employed front-running tactics to take out last year's GI Preakness S. and nearly pulled off the upset when ridden the same way in the GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last November. But the 4-year-old showed a bit of a rating gear when last seen in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S., as he shook free into the final furlong and held the rallying Senor Buscador (Mineshaft) in the run to the line.

“He has a good post to work from in seven,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert. “This is our fifth runner in this race, we have been second three times (Charlatan, 2021, Country Grammer, 2022-23), so we are hoping to make the breakthrough.”

Senor Buscador figures to sit a good trip from gate four beneath Junior Alvarado.

Reigning GI Pennsylvania Derby winner Saudi Crown (Always Dreaming) may have been out of his depth in the Classic, as he was a beaten horse a long way from home, but this 1800-meter trip figures to suit him much better. He was a convincing winner of the GIII Louisiana S. when last seen Jan. 20, but those immediately behind that day made no impact in the GIII Mineshaft S. last weekend.

“I think he's more suited from a mile [1600m] to a mile and an eighth [1800m] and the one turn should be ideal for him,” jockey Florent Geroux said. “It's a very deep race. I've been on him many times before, I know him very well, the work rider has done a perfect job and I'll leave it to them.”

Hoist the Gold (Mineshaft) is the least-likely among the five U.S. horses, but did post a 109 Beyer in wiring the GII Cigar Mile H. back in December.

“It's all about winning,” said trainer Dallas Stewart. “If you're not in it to win, you best stay home and if you don't want to be in great races like this, you ought to go do something else.”

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