April 12, 2024

Breeders’ Cup form looms large in 2024 Saudi Cup

White Abarrio trains at King Abdulaziz Racecourse ahead of the Saudi Cup (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

The world’s richest race is shaping to be something of a reboot of the biggest raceday in the United States – with a few extras thrown in for good measure.

Half of the horses contesting Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) at King Abdulaziz Racecourse were in action at the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita last November. Five of them contested the Classic (G1), while one runner from both the Dirt Mile (G1) and the Sprint (G1) will also be present.

The key could prove to be the Saudi Cup distance of 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles). Though the runners from the 1 1/4-mile Classic are all very capable at 1 1/8 miles, they will be more vulnerable to the horses stepping up from the Dirt Mile and Sprint than they would at 1 1/4 miles.

#14 White Abarrio and #4 Derma Sotogake, first and second in the Classic, are favored to perform well again. White Abarrio found a few extra lengths as a four-year-old in 2023, taking the Whitney (G1) prior to his Santa Anita success, and if he arrives in similar form, he will be tough to roll. Japan’s Derma Sotogake performed outstandingly at Santa Anita in his first race for six months, but it’s unknown whether 1 1/8 miles may be too sharp for him.

The best of the Classic beaten brigade may be #13 Ushba Tesoro. The Japanese horse proved himself in the Middle East in last year’s Dubai World Cup (G1) and ran home well for fifth at Santa Anita, but he will likely need a strong pace to win at 1 1/8 miles.

#12 Senor Buscador and #11 Saudi Crown, seventh and 10th, respectively, in the Classic, have run well in the meantime but need further improvement to be competitive here.

The toughest U.S. horse for White Abarrio to beat could be #9 National Treasure. A close second to Cody’s Wish in the Dirt Mile, he stepped up to 1 1/8 miles well to take the Pegasus World Cup (G1) from Senor Buscador. The Bob Baffert trainee is in great form and his best efforts have been around this distance.

Stepping up from the Sprint is #5 Hoist the Gold. Sixth to Elite Power that day, he’s since won the Cigar Mile (G2), beating Senor Buscador, before a distant fourth in the Pegasus. He needs a big step up on the Pegasus form.

As well as National Treasure, Baffert will see two of his former stable runners at Riyadh. #1 Carmel Road, runner-up in the 2022 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), and 2023 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner #3 Defunded are both now in Saudi stables; on their US form they have a little bit to find but they do have home advantage. #10 Power in Numbers, winner of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup, and #15 Scotland Yard (initially an also-eligible who drew in with the scratch of #8 Meisho Hario) complete the home team.

From Dubai comes #6 Isolate, winner of the Godolphin Mile (G2) and Al Maktoum Mile (G2) at Meydan last year. He probably needs to find a few lengths to win here.

Completing the field are two more Japanese runners. #7 Lemon Pop, a dual Grade 1 winner, is probably the best of them and could trouble this field at his best. #2 Crown Pride looks to be an outside chance.

For more, check out Alastair Bull’s Saudi Cup betting strategy and spot plays at the TwinSpires.com Edge!