July 20, 2024

Defending champion Call the Wind totes more weight in Red Sea Turf

Call the Wind was a handy winner of the inaugural Red Sea Turf H. (Copyright Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood)

Saturday’s $2.5 million Red Sea Turf H. on Saudi Cup Day offers a rematch among the top three from last year – Call the Wind, Mekong, and Prince of Arran – plus a few stayers on the rise.

Red Sea Turf H. – Race 3 (9:10 a.m. ET)

Call the Wind was ready to roll when making his 2020 debut in this about 1 7/8-mile affair, and Freddie Head reports that his star stayer has once again wintered well. The Frankel gelding was last seen on Arc weekend, finishing a distant third on heavy going in the Prix du Cadran (G1), but the Saudi conditions will be more to his liking.

One difference, however, is that Call the Wind will carry more weight than his 133-pound impost a year ago. After a productive campaign highlighted by victories in the Prix de Barbeville (G3) and Prix Kergorlay (G2), the seven-year-old has been assigned 137 pounds.

Back to tackle him again are last year’s runner-up Mekong and third Prince of Arran, both British invaders. Mekong has run only twice since, checking in fifth in the Ascot Gold Cup (G1) and fifth again to Mildenberger in a Jan. 18 conditions race at Wolverhampton. Prince of Arran, a three-time Melbourne Cup (G1) placer, was a warm-up third in a similar event Feb. 6 at Kempton.

Godolphin’s Secret Advisor was progressive at this time last year for Charlie Appleby, turning the Meydan Cup and Nad al Sheba Trophy (G3) double. The son of Dubawi enters fresh off a fourth in the Grosser Preis von Bayern (G1), but a step back up in trip should help. Saeed bin Suroor’s Gifts of Gold has more to prove at this level and distance.

Spanish Mission, winner of Belmont’s new Jockey Club Derby in 2019, progressed to take last September’s Doncaster Cup (G2). Although only seventh in the British Champions Long Distance Cup (G2), he was stuck in the mire at Ascot. Team Valor and Gary Barber’s five-year-old could be on the verge of his best season yet.

Also shipping from England is Red Verdon. Outpaced as a trailing fifth in the Feb. 6 Winter Derby Trial, he’s useful over longer, having scored his signature win in last summer’s Prix Maurice de Nieuil (G2). Jessica Harrington’s Barbados brings solid Irish form. The runner-up to Twilight Payment in the Vintage Crop (G3) was also fourth in the Irish St Leger (G1) before struggling in the Cadran ground.

Mirinaque hasn’t recaptured his multiple Group 1-winning Argentine form stateside. But his top result was a close second in the Grade 2 marathon over 1 5/8 miles on Breeders’ Cup Friday, and the Maria Cristina Munoz charge could enjoy the opportunity to go even longer on turf.

Bahrain’s New Show, originally in the International H. on Friday, will now try this race after the withdrawal of Communique opened up the opportunity for trainer Fawzi Nass. Winner of the Jan. 29 Crown Prince Cup at Sakhir, where his Saudi Cup-bound stablemate Simsir was fourth, New Show steps up beyond about 1 1/2 miles for the first time.

The remaining contenders are Saudis. Making Miracles, who beat Arctic Sound in the 1 1/2-mile Crown Prince Cup two back, was most recently third in the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup.