Saudi Cup 8-race card promises some of the year’s best action

The Saudi Cup has produced some superb racing since its first run in 2020, and this weekend’s action in Riyadh promises to be just as good as the previous three editions.

“Money can’t buy everything,” the saying goes, so even the $10 million first prize for the G1 Saudi Cup was not enough to tempt the connections of Flightline to keep him in training long enough for a trip to the desert and Saturday’s eight-race card.

Taiba is probably the best still in training, and like Country Grammer, which runs here for the second time after finishing runner-up last year, is owned by Saudi businessman Amr Zedan, who is keen to support his country’s biggest race.

So will Taiba win? Maximum Security won the inaugural Saudi Cup in 2020, but since then some very good American horses, including Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Knicks Go, have come unstuck in Riyadh. The track often suits turf horses, so nothing is taken for granted, although Taiba’s third to Flightline in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is probably the best form on offer here.

The Japanese are yet to win this race, although they enjoyed four winners on this card a year ago. They run six this time, with Panthalassa the most intriguing. The six-year-old, dead-heat winner of last year’s G1 Dubai Turf at Meydan, is probably better known for the huge lead he built up in last year’s Tenno Sho (Autumn), only to be passed close to home by Equinox. Panthalassa has one way of going: fast and from the front.

The Riyadh Dirt Sprint welcomes back Dancing Prince, the devastating five-and-three-quarter-length winner of this race last season. If he is in that same form, he will be hard to beat, but he does face Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Elite Power — trained by Bill Mott but owned by Saudi-based Juddmonte — as well as the brilliantly fast Dubai Group 3 winner Meraas in what many believe will be the race of the night.

The 1351 Turf Sprint is also an intriguing race, with Mott’s Casa Creed, beaten a whisker in this race last year, returning having won two Grade 1s in the US since. Successful last year was Songline, who is also back to defend her title, while Japanese hopes are also carried by Bathrat Leon, Restencia and Lauda Sion.

The Neom Turf Cup looks an open affair, without a superstar in the line-up this year. John and Thady Gosden run the progressive Mostahdaf, who should find this easier than the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe he ran in last time. Dubai Future, solid all year for Saeed Bin Suroor, is another to consider, while Charlie Appleby’s filly White Moonlight should enjoy this distance.

Lastly, to the Red Sea Turf Handicap, the longest race on the card at nearly two miles. Subjectivist, who looked likely to never run again after picking up an injury in 2021, has by far the best form here but this is a tough ask, under top weight, after such a long time off. My pick is Nate the Great, an nice improving stayer who will have been impeccably prepared for this race by the Andrew Balding team.

The action begins at 3:45 p.m. local time on Saturday.