Swiss Skydiver, Charlatan, Knicks Go Lead U.S. Entries To Saudi Cup Card

The second staging of The Saudi Cup meeting, headlined by the $20 million Saudi Cup, has attracted a star-studded list of entries from the US, including Swiss Skydiver, Knicks Go, Charlatan, and Channel Maker.

After a successful inaugural event last year, the two-day meeting, held at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on Feb. 19 and 20, has been expanded significantly in 2021 with increased prize money and a new race, resulting in an even stronger list of entries than 12 months ago.

The highlight will once again be the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable race. The 1,800 meter contest has attracted some high-profile entries, such as Kenny McPeek’s top-class Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver (USA), 2020 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go (USA) and Charlatan (USA), the winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.

Last year’s fifth-place finisher, Tacitus (USA), is also entered along with Shug McGaughey’s two-time G1 winner Code Of Honor (USA), while Jack Sisterson is represented by G1 Cigar Mile winner True Timber. The main British challenger looks set to be last year’s Saudi Derby runner-up, Mishriff.

Gronkowski (KSA), now in the care of Abdulaziz Khalid in Saudi Arabia, has been entered to run in the meeting’s highlight again after finishing tenth last year under Frankie Dettori. The locally-trained winner of the 2020 Dirt Sprint, New York Central (KSA), has been entered in The Saudi Cup this year, as has local hero, Alzahzaah (KSA), trained by Shaleh Alotalbi, winner of his last four starts, the latest being the domestic Grade 1, the Crown Prince Cup last month.

The $1.5 million Saudi Derby has also attracted a host of well-regarded types, including multiple G1 winner Jackie’s Warrior (USA), last seen finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, as well as the horse that finished two places ahead of him that day, Doug O’Neill’s Hot Rod Charlie (USA).

The 2,100-meter, $1 million Middle Distance Turf Cup entry list includes Bill Mott’s four-time G1 winner Channel Maker (USA), as well as 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm The Court (USA). They could face a strong European-based challenge with Dubai Warrior, Extra Elusive and Sangarius (all GB) all entered, while Port Lions (BAH) , trained in Bahrain by Fawzi Nass, is also entered as he bids to win the race for a second year running.

Channel Maker could also line up in the $2.5 million Long Distance Turf Handicap, run over 3,000 meters, which boasts over 100 international entries from around the world and also includes the 2020 victor Call The Wind (FR), international globetrotter Prince Of Arran (GB) and English St Leger runner up Berkshire Rocco (GB).

Neil Drysdale’s Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes victor Oleksandra (USA) is entered in the $1 million, 1,351-meter Turf Sprint, where he could take on G1 July Cup winner Oxted (GB) and the Godolphin-owned Space Blues (GB).

Oxted is also entered in the 1,200 meter $1.5 million Dirt Sprint alongside Justin (JPN), who earned an automatic spot for the race when winning the Grade 3 Capella Stakes last month, while the Purebred Arabian entries in the 2,000 meter $2 million Obaiya Arabian Classic are headlined by the Group 1-winning Messi (BEL), trained by Timo Keersmaekers in Belgium, and last year’s winner Tallaab Al Khalediah (KSA), trained locally by Mutlaq Bin Mushref.

This year’s meeting, which starts on Feb. 19, sees the addition of a new race, the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap, specifically designed for horses trained in IFHA Part II or Part III countries.

There are horses entered from nine different countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the Czech Republic and Greece.

Tom Ryan, Director of Strategy and International Racing for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, was excited by the quality of talent entered for this year’s event.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the final entry list for this year’s Saudi Cup meeting, especially given the challenges everyone has been faced with over the past 12 months,” Ryan said. “Considering this is only the second year of a new international racing event, both the quality and depth of entries has grown significantly, and there is some really strong momentum behind the meeting. We have seen marked improvements across the board but most satisfying to us is the support that our turf races and the Saudi Derby have received.

“The Saudi Cup itself is fascinating with exciting entries from the USA, Japan, Europe and the Middle East, while we are delighted with the response to our new race, The Saudi International Handicap, which gives an opportunity for horses trained in part two and three racing countries to compete on the global stage.”

* suffix denotes where horse is trained

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