Sir Busker well prepared, in the hunt for NEOM Turf glory at Saudi Cup

LONDON: One of the horses flying the flag for British racing at this weekend’s Saudi Cup meeting has “definitely got a chance” of claiming a famous victory among a strong field, his trainer William Knight and syndicate chief Sam Hoskins said on Friday.

Sir Busker runs in the Group Three NEOM Turf Cup on Saturday and will face stiff competition from early favorite Missed The Cut, trained by George Boughey, and the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mostahdaf, while the strongest Arab interest will be in White Moonlight, trained by Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor.

“Mostahdaf has got very good form in the book,” Knight said. “Missed The Cut looks unexposed, it could do anything, and I know the Boughey team think a lot of him.”

He added: “They are probably the two favorites. They’ll be priced up as such, and they’ve got every right to be so. It’s competitive as any of these big races are, but I definitely think [Sir Busker] has got a chance of being in the first three.

“If he can run to the same form as he did when he won the Group Two at York, as well as his Juddmonte form, he’s got to be there in the shake-up,” he told Arab News.

British racing’s interest in the Saudi Cup has flourished since the inaugural event in 2020, according to Knight, who said the meeting is perfectly timed for horses in between their season breaks.

The potential for competitive racing against highly rated horses without the threat of ruining the rhythm of the regular racing season is what makes the Saudi Cup an alluring prospect, according to Knight.

He said: “It fits well in our calendar, especially if a horse has had a break after the season last year.

“You can get them ready for this [meeting] without necessarily having to rush them there, and it sets them up for the season ahead, so they’re not missing a European campaign.

“It falls in line well with Dubai World Cup night, obviously it coincides with Super Saturday, but it is a nice lead into the Dubai World Cup and when the prize money is so good and you’re running on a track that is very well maintained, it makes total sense.”

Knight commented on the world-class facilities on offer for 7-year-old Sir Busker at Newmarket in the UK before his shipping out to Riyadh, but also praised the setup for the horses, training teams, support staff and owners in Saudi Arabia.

He said: “With the Saudi Cup team over here, it’s all been very smooth; the stabling for Sir Busker over here is good.

“They are looking after my staff well, they’re in nice accommodation, they have great vets out here, so all those things make a difference.”

Hoskins, who runs the Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds syndicate group which owns Sir Busker, was also delighted with the Saudi Cup setup for the horse and believes his three-race stint in Dubai in February and March last year has helped his acclimatization in the Kingdom.

He said: “He’s been very well since arriving in Saudi Arabia. He seemed to settle in like a duck to water, and obviously had the benefit of going out to Dubai last year, so that has stood him in good stead.

“We’re really looking forward [to Saturday]. It’s really exciting for KVT as we’ve got eight people coming out to watch, which is fantastic.

“It’s intriguing and it’s great to bring them out to a country like Saudi Arabia, which they perhaps might not have been visiting. It’s amazing where racing takes you in the world.”

Giving their horse a shot at glory has been the priority for KVT, so while there is huge prize money on offer in the Saudi Cup feature race, the syndicate believes that Sir Busker has the best chance in the NEOM Turf Cup.

Hoskins said: “We did have the option of going for the Saudi Cup, which is obviously worth telephone numbers [of money], but we love Sir Busker and want to do what’s best for him.

“We could win the NEOM, whereas we couldn’t realistically win the Saudi Cup.”