Saudi international challenge dream come true for Greek trainer

RIYADH: Greece is not known as the strongest racing jurisdiction in the world, but the country will throw down its best possible challenge for Friday’s Saudi International Handicap presented by Al-Rajhi Bank.

Harry Haralambus, trainer of Baldwin, said it was quite a trip for his seven-year-old, who began his career with Kevin Ryan in England and was a wide-margin winner on his latest start in the 1,400-meter Listed Winter Challenge on Dec. 27 at Markopoulo in Athens.

Trying 2,100 meters on turf in the $500,000 invitational event for a wide-ranging number of overseas contenders is a very different challenge.

“We only have all-weather in Athens but hopefully he’ll be okay as he ran on it a lot of times in England and the ground looks quite fast.

“He’s a top sprinter in Greece, he’s broken all the track records, from five furlongs (1,000m) to seven (1,400m). We asked if they could make this race over six furlongs, but they couldn’t do it.

“This is another 600 meters. I don’t know how he’ll cope with that but we’re happy, we’re living the dream. It’s an experience for us, for the horse, so why not? You never know,” Haralambus added.

Trainer Christos Stavrou’s Run To The Hills represented Greece in the same race 12 months ago, finishing three lengths behind the winner as a commendable fifth, so their runners should not be underestimated.

Haralambus said: “They invited us because we’re the second-top rated horse in Greece, the top one Revamp is the other Greek horse that’s running here.

“It was a long trip for us. It’s difficult for the horse. But we came to join in and he’s growing and maturing.

“We are excited. We raced once in Dubai in 1997 with a Greek-bred horse called Balal. He raced well enough in his first race there, but it was difficult on the big day.

“I’ve been training for 21 years, we finished as top trainer and the owners won all the big races last year, so it was a great year for us. Now this is the icing on the cake. There’s always a chance, the hope never dies,” he added.