THERE are four Irish-trained horses in today’s $31.5 million Saudi Cup meeting in Riyadh. Sonnyboyliston, Baron Samedi and Princess Zoe run in the $2.5 million Red Sea Handicap, while Thunder Moon goes in the $1.5 million Turf Sprint.
Most eyes will be on Princess Zoe at 2.05pm as her amazing tale of adventure takes her to the Saudi desert.
Tony Mullins has been typically bullish about her preparations.
The Red Sea over a mile and seven furlongs is part of an eight-race card and the distance and faster ground are two obstacles to over come for the mare who produced her best runs over further.
As well Princess Zoe and Sonnyboyliston, Ireland is also represented in the Red Sea by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Baron Samedi (Ryan Moore), while British hopes rest with Nayef Road for Mark and Charlie Johnston.
Godolphin also hold a strong hand in the race with Saeed bin Suroor set to saddle Dubai Future and Desert Fire, while Charlie Appleby runs Siskany.
The three Irish have been unlucky with the draw, in stalls 12,13 and 14.
The four-year-old Dubawi horse Siskany, a listed winner in Dubai is the likely favourite. He gets 3lb from Princess Zoe and 6lb from Sonnyboyliston and while he has to step up on what he has done to date, this may be set up for him, while Baron Samedi could be best of the Irish.
Racing begins at 12.45pm with the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup presented by Jahez over a mile, two and a half furlongs. The Japanese horse Authority, second to Contrail in the Japan Cup, is the likely favourite ahead of Britain’s Pyledriver and the Aga Khan’s French-trained Ebaiyra, second and third in the Hong Kong Vase in December. Solid Stone, Grocer Jack and Harrovian back up a strong British challenge, with the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Solid Stone coming off two Group 3 wins at the end of last season. It looks a great opportunity for Pyledriver to get a big payday.
Thunder Moon is the Irish representative, dropping to seven furlongs, for the Group 3 Turf Sprint presented by stc where he meets five British runners including Royal Ascot winner Rohaan.
The mile Saudi Derby is an international affair with Bob Baffert sending Pinehurst to take on two Charlie Appleby-trained runners in Noble Truth and Sovereign Pace, along with George Boughey’s Group 3-winning filly Oscula. Noble Truth looked capable of a bit better than his bare form last season and might be the one.
Mishriff and David Egan will have to overcome a wide draw if he is to defend his Saudi Cup title.
Thady Gosden picked stall 14 of 14 at a draw ceremony on Wednesday. He started from stall 12 when triumphing last year, before going on to win the Sheema Classic in Dubai and the Juddmonte International at York. He benefitted from a strong pace last season to get up in the closing stages to win by a length. This looks a tougher race and the Americans may be fitter than the Gosdens’ five-year-old who bids to add the £11.1 million he has already secured in prize money.
Saeed bin Suroor and Frankie Dettori team up with Real World, with the Godolphin runner winning each of his four outings, graduating from the Royal Hunt Cup to win a Newbury listed prize before landing the Group 3 Strensall Stakes at York.
He signed off with a narrow verdict in the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein at ParisLongchamp and was victorious at that level in the Zabeel Mile on his reappearance at Meydan last month.
Leading Japanese hope Marche Lorraine, who was a shock winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November, is in 13 with Christophe Soumillon, with compatriot T O Keynes in stall eight.
Two four-year-olds from last season’s Triple Crown come from the US. Brad Cox’s Mandaloun was officially awarded the 2021 Kentucky Derby earlier this week following the disqualification of Medina Spirit, will be in stall six for the nine-furlong dirt contest. He already has a win under his belt this season, having landed a Grade 3 at Fair Grounds. He is joined by Steve Asmussen’s classic-placed Midnight Bourbon.
From France, last season’s Champion Stakes hero Sealiway will be partnered by Ryan Moore for the first time as he starts from stall 11 and is now trained by Francis Graffard. His Ascot win was impressive but on much softer ground.
Next Best: Mishriff