Which Horses are Likely to Race in the Lucrative Saudi Cup?

Which Horses are Likely to Race in the Lucrative Saudi Cup?

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Racetrack will host the richest horse race in the world in 2019 when it stages the inaugural running of the $20 million (£16.5 million) Saudi Cup on February 29.

The newly-announced 1m1f dirt contest eclipses the $12m Dubai World Cup and $16m Pegasus World Cup as the most valuable racing contest staged anywhere in the world.

In a sensational announcement at a launch event in Saratoga on Wednesday, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said he hope it would lead to the nation becoming a major player in horse racing.

He said: “The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horse racing in Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and also our ambition to become a leading player on horse racing’s world stage.”

The winner of the Saudi Cup will earn a $10 million, but many of the beaten horses could still take home the largest earnings of their careers.

Second-place will be worth $3.5 million and there is $2 million for third, $1.5 million for fourth; $1 million for fifth and $600,000 for sixth.

Payments will go down to the tenth-place finisher, who will bank $200,000.

Entry to the race will be free and the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will pay for all shipping of horses as well as travel and accommodation for connections.

Saudi Arabia's big day of racing will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup, but a month before the Dubai World Cup.

This scheduling is to allow and encourage the leading trainers to have their top horses compete in all three of the most valuable dirt races in the world.

Jockey Frankie Dettori, who has a long experience of racing in the UAE, including three Dubai World Cup wins, is confident that the Saudi Cup will be a hit.

“Of all the dirt tracks I’ve ridden, it’s the one I like best, as you can win from the front, and you can win from behind – it’s a fair track,” he said.

Who Will Run in The Saudi Cup?

So, which horses are likely to be in the hunt for this stunning new prize? Let’s take a look at some of the likeliest candidates.

  • Thunder Snow – Godolphin’s dual Dubai World Cup winner has developed into one of the toughest dirt performers on the planet and the nine-furlong trip of the Saudi Cup is absolutely perfect for this top-class 5yo.
  • Gronkowski – Yet to win on dirt but only beaten a nose by Thunder Snow in this year’s Dubai World Cup and could still have more to offer for big-money operators Phoenix Thoroughbreds.
  • Game Winner – Last year’s brilliant Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner at Belmont Park was beaten at odds-on on his first two runs this year but he remains a potentially top-class dirt performer and legendary trainer Bob Baffert had described him as ‘special’.
  • McKinzie – Disappointing favourite for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic but is a dual Grade 1 winner on dirt since then, including when not stretched to win the 1m1f Whitney Stakes at Saratoga in August.
  • Gunnevera – Yet to land a big one but knocking on the door in big dirt races like Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup. Comes from off the pace which isn’t always ideal on dirt, but will surely get the ideal set-up soon.
  • Tacitus – A 3yo dirt performer with potential to improve on his already consistent profile. Tends to come from well back in his races but is a really strong finisher who stays 1m4f.
  • Maximum Security – Lightly-raced 3yo with huge potential. Made the breakthrough at Grade 1 level when winning the Florida Derby on just his third career start then ground out a second top-flight success in the Haskell Invitational Stakes in July.

Ladbrokes have priced up the continent from which the first Saudi Cup winner is trained, with Asia 2/5 market leader, 5/2 North America second in and Europe a 6/1 chance.