White Abarrio Draws Rail, National Treasure Booked In Seven For The 2024 Saudi Cup

White Abarrio galloping in Riyadh on Wednesday | Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia

Last year's GI Breeders' Cup Classic hero White Abarrio (Race Day), who leads Team USA in Saturday's 1800-meter $20-million G1 Saudi Cup, drew the rail in a field of 14 during the Saudi Cup draw ceremony in Saudi Arabia Wednesday.

Trained by Richard Dutrow, Jr., the gray defeated Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits) (stall 13) in the Classic, and will face the starter for the first time since in Saturday's contest at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh in just a handful of days.

After the draw, Dutrow said, “He had the two-hole last time, this can't be a problem. We've got the best rider, one of the best horses. It'll be fun. We'll be ready. He really takes my breath away every time I see him.”

“I'm shaking right now, I mean this is exciting stuff man–a $20-million race, my mum's going crazy! I mean my dad used to run for $10,000… we were so happy, now a $20-million race, she just can't believe it.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has yet to win the Saudi Cup, but his runners have performed well at the meeting, which will celebrate its fifth edition in 2024. In fact, Baffert runners have finished second each of the past three years–Charlatan (Speightstown) (2021) and Country Grammer (Tonalist) (2022/2023). This term, Baffert will saddle GI Preakness S. hero National Treasure (Quality Road), who will leave from gate seven. The bay defeated Grade II winner Senor Buscador (Mineshaft) (stall four) in the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. at the end of January.

Jimmy Barnes, assistant trainer to Bob Baffert said, “He's got better and better, he's beginning to put races together, he's really matured and loves it here. Flavien Prat [jockey] will give him a good trip and that's all you can ask for.”

Other American Saudi Cup starters will leave from gates eight and five, respectively, in Grade II winner Hoist the Gold (Mineshaft), fourth in the Pegasus; and GI Pennsylvania Derby winner Saudi Crown (Always Dreaming). The latter triumphed in the GIII Louisiana S. at Fair Grounds on Jan. 20.

Dallas Stewart, trainer of Hoist The Gold, said, “That's the same number that Winning Colors [who he rode as an exercise rider] had when she won the GI Kentucky Derby [in 1988]. He travels well, he's been to California three times, he went to New York, he looks terrific and is handling the track good.”

The aforementioned Derma Sotogake, a winner of the G2 UAE Derby last year, sustained a minor injury to his eye on the flight over, but connections have opted to run the colt, as he appears healed, the Racing Post reported on Wednesday.

“We didn't see how it happened on the plane,” said trainer Hidetaka Otonashi to the publication. “He's recovered from the injury and was galloping very well, so we've decided to go ahead.”

Japan fields another four runners in the Saudi Cup, as fellow Breeders' Cup Classic competitor Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) (stall 11) has also returned for another crack at his Santa Anita foes. Already the winner of the 2023 G1 Dubai World Cup, the 7-year-old entire won his second G1 Tokyo Daishoten at Oi on Dec. 29 and has been pleasing connections in his training.

Japan's attempt to take home the hardware for the second consecutive year is supported by the trio of Japanese Champion Dirt Horse Lemon Pop (Lemon Drop Kid) (gate three) and MGSWs Crown Pride (Jpn) (Reach The Crown {Jpn}) (gate six) and Meisho Hario (Jpn) (Pyro) from stall 12.

Harry Sweeney, of Lemon Pop who is owned by Godolphin, “We've enormous confidence in our jockey, in our last race we drew the very outside and a horse had never won from that position before. Lemon Pop overcame those odds. He's going to have to do it again but we'll see how it goes. It's a big ask for Lemon Pop, we're respectful of all.”

GI Awesome Again S. and GI Hollywood Gold Cup S. victor Defunded (Dialed In), formerly raced in America from the Baffert barn. Campaigned by new connections beginning on Saturday, he exits stall nine. The other Saudi contenders are Power in Numbers (Girvin), who sports a 4-0 record at Riyadh to date, and the winning Carmel Road (Quality Road) (stall 14). Quality Road's Emblem Road won the 2022 edition of the Saudi Cup. They leave from stalls 10 and 14, respectively.

Khalid bin Mishref, racing manager for the gelding's owner Dr. Muhaideb Abdullah Almuhaideb, said, “It was a good move from us to bring him early to Saudi Arabia, he's acclimatized very well. We're hoping that he's capable to compete against those great horses.”

The UAE's Isolate (Mark Valeski), booked in stall two, is riding a two-race winning streak, and was last seen winning the G2 Al Maktoum Mile in December.

The full field in post position order is as follows:

 

The Saudi Cup-G1, $20,000,000, 4yo/up, 1800m
1-White Abarrio (Race Day)
2-Isolate (Mark Valeski)
3-Lemon Pop (Lemon Drop Kid)
4-Senor Buscador (Mineshaft)
5-Saudi Crown (Always Dreaming)
6-Crown Pride (Jpn) (Reach The Crown {Jpn})
7-National Treasure (Quality Road)
8-Hoist The Gold (Mineshaft)
9-Defunded (Dialed In)
10-Power In Numbers (Girvin)
11-Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn})
12-Meisho Hario (Jpn) (Pyro)
13-Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits)
14-Carmel Road (Quality Road)

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