Baffert: Charlatan’s ‘Talent Makes Up For His Inexperience’ Heading To Saudi Cup

Though Bob Baffert doesn’t expect to make the trip to Riyadh next month for the second edition of the $20 million Saudi Cup, the Hall of Fame trainer will have a strong hand with potential race-day favorite Charlatan headed overseas. The lightly-raced 4-year-old son of Speightstown will make the Saudi Cup just his fifth career start, but a big performance off the layoff in the Grade 1 Malibu on Dec. 26 proved talent isn’t an issue.

“I think his talent makes up for his inexperience,” Baffert said during a conference call Wednesday. “I think he has enough experience where he doesn’t know what it’s like to lose. I think that’s a good trait.”

Charlatan has crossed the wire first in all four of his career starts, though he was disqualified from his win in the G1 Arkansas Derby in May, 2020. Given time off for injury after that start, Charlatan returned to dominate the G1 Malibu by 4 1/2 lengths.

Baffert said the one-turn, 1 1/8-mile distance of the Saudi Cup was especially attractive with a speed horse like Charlatan.

“I think coming off the seven-eighths race, especially the way he did it, I think it is a perfect kind of distance,” the trainer said. “We know he ships well and he has a great mind on him. He’s a good gate horse. It’s very challenging to go to Saudi or Dubai. You need a really great mind and he has a really great mind. So I think that race fits the bill perfectly for him.”

Baffert indicated a couple minor concerns after the inaugural edition of the race, including a narrow starting gate that doesn’t allow a header to stay with the horse, and a deeper track surface that the trainer thought could have used more water ahead of race day.

Another American-trained horse, Tacitus, will contest the Saudi Cup for a second straight year. The 5-year-old son of Tapit has danced most of the big dances and is regularly flirting with a top-level victory, but has yet to break through. Tacitus was fifth last year at Riyadh, and will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“Last year when we brought Tacitus, he had a nice little following locally due to the fact that he was a Juddmonte horse,” said Riley Mott, assistant to his father, trainer Bill Mott. “He had a lot of fans there on race day. And just to be there in (the late) Prince Khalid Abdullah’s home country was very special. To bring Tacitus back this year is something we are very much looking forward to and a big reason why we kept him in training this year.”

It is currently unclear whether impressive Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Pegasus World Cup winner Knicks Go will ship over for the Saudi Cup. Trainer Brad Cox told the Daily Racing Form that a decision will be made by Monday.

“He does look really good out of the race, sound, a 5-year-old with a lot of energy. His weight’s great,” reported Cox.

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