July 16, 2024

Pinehurst takes on Godolphin, Japan in Saudi Derby

Pinehurst brings Grade 1 credentials to the Saudi Derby (Photo by Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Douglas De Felice)

Southern California shipper Pinehurst bids to move forward in an eclectic Saudi Derby (G3) on Saudi Cup Day. Ginobili was set to shorten up for the Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3), but he is now reportedly scratched.

More coverage: Saudi Cup preview and undercard turf stakes

Saudi Derby – Race 6 (11:05 a.m. ET)

Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner Pinehurst is one of four Triple Crown nominees in the $1.5 million 1,600-meter (about one mile) contest, along with the Japan Road’s Consigliere and Sekifu and Godolphin’s Island Falcon. The Bob Baffert runner was only fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), but returned with a better second in the San Vicente (G2). Flavien Prat rides Pinehurst for the first time, and the Twirling Candy colt projects speed from post 11 around the one-turn metric mile.

Consigliere captured the first scoring race on the Japan Road, the Nov. 27 Cattleya S., in a similar configuration at Tokyo. The Kazumi Yoshida homebred was less convincing than in his about nine-furlong debut romp at Chukyo, and just held by a diminishing neck. Compatriot Sekifu, on the other hand, could benefit by reverting to one turn after a fourth in the Dec. 15 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun. The Henny Hughes colt had won three in a row at about seven furlongs, including the Hyodo Junior Grand Prix over subsequent Hyacinth S. winner Combustion.

The Saeed bin Suroor-trained Island Falcon, like his Charlie Appleby colleagues Noble Truth and Sovereign Prince, is experimenting on dirt. Island Falcon, a son of the Gone West-line stallion Iffraaj and a Dubawi mare, won a Jan. 21 turf conditions race at Meydan dubbed the Jumeirah Derby Trial. Sovereign Prince was supplemented for this spot after winning both of his Dubai Carnival starts, including the Feb. 4 Jumeirah Classic. By Dubawi and out of the Group 2-winning Bernardini mare Gamilati, the gelding has claims to act on dirt.

Noble Truth is the most accomplished of the Godolphin trio, as the runner-up in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) on Arc Day. That effort left its mark as he regressed to fourth in the Oct. 23 Horris Hill (G3), but Appleby is hopeful of a return to form off the freshening. His trainer also believes dirt is no problem, judging by how the son of Kingman, out of a Frankel half-sister to Stacelita, handles it at his Marmoom facility in Dubai.

“He was sent to Dubai in November purposely to be aimed at the Saudi Derby, and if he brings his best two-year-old form to the race, he’ll be a very live contender,” Appleby said. “He’s adapted well since embarking on a more American-style training program in Dubai since traveling over.”

Also making the short journey from Dubai are the South Americans Kiefer and Perfect Love. Brazilian-bred Kiefer has placed in both of his Carnival outings, recently taking second in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) at this trip. Argentine-bred Perfect Love needed more time after arriving in the Mideast, and the Antonio Cintra trainee resumes from a nearly four-month break.

The European shippers are Prix Six Perfections (G3) victress Oscula, whose four Group placings include a third in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1); Group 3-placed The Wizard of Eye, fifth in the Lagardere; and Italian Group 2-placed Jacinda.

Three Saudis are in the field proper – Irish import I Am Magic, the Killavullan (G3) third who won his local debut; undefeated Alnaader, 4-for-4 after the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Cup; and Almuthanna, winner of three straight including the Ministry of National Guard Cup. Two other locals are the also-eligibles Creative Stride and Qarnas, the placegetters chasing Alnaader last out.

Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) – Race 7 (11:45 a.m. ET)

Reigning Riyadh Dirt Sprint hero Copano Kicking (Photo by Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Mathea Kelley)

Del Mar aficionado Ginobili will hope that the King Abdulaziz Racetrack suits him as well in this $1.5 million sprint. The Richard Baltas trainee has saved his best for the seaside track, scoring his signature win in the Pat O’Brien (G2) and finishing second to Life Is Good in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). The son of Munnings was last seen tiring to sixth in the Dec. 4 Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct, and shortens up to 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) here. Florent Geroux, who steered him to his Del Mar maiden tally, will reunite with him in post 2.

Update: Ginobili is now listed as a non-runner.

Defending champion Copano Kicking stayed on relentlessly last year to deny Matera Sky in an all-Japanese exacta. Winless in just three starts in the interim, the Spring at Last gelding was most recently fourth in the Oct. 6 Tokyo Hai. In contrast, fellow Japanese hope Dancing Prince arrives in career form following a victory in the Dec. 12 Capella (G3) at Nakayama. Chain of Love takes her stiffest test since switching to dirt, but she was Grade 3-placed on turf and competed in two Japanese fillies’ classics in 2020.

Gladiator King and Switzerland, both U.S. Grade 3 winners who have attained the same level in Dubai, represent Bhupat Seemar. While Switzerland romped over Gladiator King in their mutual comeback in the Jan. 1 Garhoud Sprint, the rare sloppy track at Meydan favored him. Each has tried this race before, Gladiator King placing third in 2020 and Switzerland checking in fourth in 2021. Leading UAE jockey Tadgh O’Shea sticks with Switzerland, who will break from post 14, and Gladiator King keeps Mickael Barzalona in post 11.

Argentine Group 2 scorer Rudy Trigger comes off a fourth at Meydan, where he was anchored by top weight versus Northern Hemisphere sophomores in a conditions race. As a three-year-old by Southern Hemisphere breeding, Rudy Trigger gets a four-pound allowance from the older males.

Good Effort’s best efforts have come on the British all-weather. Twice the winner of the Golden Rose S. at Lingfield, the Ismail Mohammed veteran exits a third in a fast-run Kachy S. His dirt attempts have been hit-or-miss though, with his close second in the 2021 Mahab al Shimaal (G3) on Dubai’s Super Saturday offset by flops in the Golden Shaheen (G1) and Vosburgh (G2).

Locally-based Faz Zae, third to Copano Kicking in last year’s running, has won all four starts of the current Saudi season. Fellow Saudis Mortajeh, Rock Sound, Beehive, Sunset Flash, and Dolma round out the cast.