The richest event in horse racing will return to Riyadh on February 26 as the Saudi Cup calls together some of the fastest flat talents in the sport for its third edition.
First held in 2020, the Saudi Cup will once again put a $20 million prize purse on the line after being granted Group 1 status last year, advancing its reputation as a highly revered race.
Four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup took place at Gulfstream Park in Florida, some familiar faces will be in the hunt to win a prize fund more than five times as big in Riyadh.
Although the final list of runners is yet to be determined, punters have a pretty good idea of who looks more than likely to feature, with a group of top contenders already emerging.
Illinois News Today provides a breakdown of those top runners who are set to run in Riyadh, along with a horse racing betting guide analysing the recent form of those up for the biggest purse in racing.
Seemingly certain to defend his crown this year, a lot will be expected of Mishriff after taking a first successful dip into Group 1 waters during 2021.
Trainer John Gosden won the $10 million grand prize at last year’s Saudi Cup before adding another $3.5 million or so following Mishriff’s win at the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic the following month.
The remainder of his 2021 included some closes misses, though he thundered to victory by some six lengths in the Juddmonte Stakes, and another win in Riyadh would make Mishriff the highest-grossing horse of all time:
“My uncle really deserved it. The number of years he’s been in horse racing, it must have been one of his sweetest moments,” said Prince Bandar, whose uncle, Prince Faisal, owns Mishriff.
“I was really happy, especially as none of us expected it. We were looking at Charlatan and Knicks Go and thinking it was going to be a US domination.
“But Mishriff proved he has what it takes and it is exciting that he is back again this year.”
A star of the American circuit and riding a three-win streak into Riyadh, Mandaloun has sparked at a little more than a mile and is looking to add his biggest win to date at the Saudi Cup.
This would be the four-year-old’s first experience racing outside the United States, having competed exclusively at Churchill Downs (Louisville), Monmouth Park (Oceanport) and Fair Grounds (New Orleans) until now.
Jockey Florent Leroux has helped evolve this Brad H. Cox-trained talent into a Group 1 threat, having edged the TVG.com Haskell Stakes last July and finishing a narrow second to Medina Spirit at last year’s Kentucky Derby.
There’s certainly a sense Mandaloun has the sheer speed and connection with Leroux necessary to compete, although the +400 price could force bettors to consider bigger-value plays.
T O Keynes (+500)
Having dominated for much of his career in Japan so far, T O Keynes will spread his wings in an attempt to take that superior streak overseas this month.
Faith in the Daisuke Takayanagi-trained contender waned slightly after he placed fourth at the JBC Classic in early November.
However, that faith was restored when he came back to mop the floor with the competition when he made a victorious Group 1 debut in Japan’s Champions’ Cup the following month:
The five-year-old made such light work of that test that T O Keynes could stage a major shock as something of an unknown to the mainstream audience.
2022 Saudi Cup Runners
|T O Keynes||+500|