A closer look at the 14 runners in the US$20 million Saudi Cup

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Tacitus

A field of 14 is officially set for the world’s richest horse race, with America’s Maximum Security the anticipated favourite in tomorrow’s US$20-million Saudi Cup.

Post positions for the nine-furlong feature at King Abdulaziz Racecourse were drawn Wednesday, and the assigned gates look like no hindrance to the fancied contingent that includes McKinzie, Mucho Gusto, Midnight Bisou, and Tacitus.

Below is an analysis of the 14 runners with morning line odds. This race is being staged for the first time, and its entrants will run free of race day medication such as Lasix.

1 – GOLD DREAM, 20-1 (Gold Allure – Osamu Hirata – 23: 9-7-2): If bettors like Chrysoberyl, they may want to consider the Champions Cup runner-up Gold Dream as well at a higher price. Again, though, stepping up from Japanese competition to this kind of international dirt race with an American presence is not easy. He also did not back-up the Champions Cup effort when fourth more recently in the Tokyo Daishoten (G1).

  1. TACITUS, 12-1 (Tapit – Bill Mott – 9: 3-3-2): After winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2) last spring, this once-promising colt developed with runner-up finishes in the Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and Travers Stakes (G1). He then finished a flat third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) to go along with his third in the Kentucky Derby, resulting in a layoff of five months entering this spot. Unless he proves otherwise, expect the same board-hitting effort at best. Use underneath.
  2. BENBATL, 10-1 (Dubawi – Saeed bin Suroor – 20: 10-3-1): This international star won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) with ease most recently in his dirt debut. But those Meydan prep races for the Dubai World Cup are typically filled with weaker competition or horses rounding into shape off significant layoffs. Now Benbatl steps up to face some top-quality American dirt stars. While Benbatl is a respected veteran on turf, the waters look too deep here to trust him.
  3. NORTH AMERICA, 30-1 (Dubawi – Satish Seemar – 19: 7-3-3): Similar to Benbatl, this speedy eight-year-old gelding looks like the kind of horse who wins in the Middle East when there are few international shippers and the good horses present are coming off layoffs. In the Saudi Cup, every runner is likely to be at 100 per cent for the world’s largest purse. His pacesetting style will give him some problems, too, with Maximum Security and Capezzano present.
  1. GRONKOWSKI, 20-1 (Lonhro – Salem Bin Ghadayer – 14: 4-3-3): When this horse initially came to Dubai in 2019, he finished fifth in Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) before rebounding with a strong second in the Dubai World Cup (G1). This year, he ran a flat-looking third in both The Entisar and Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2). But, as with before, it’s possible he only needed those races to get back into the flow of a campaign. Supporters will get a reasonable price because of the recent losses. Live longshot.
  1. MAXIMUM SECURITY, 5/2 (New Year’s Day – Jason Servis – 9: 7-1-0): On paper, there is no reason to go against the top American dirt star. Last year, Maximum Security crossed the wire first in the Kentucky Derby before following up that effort with a Haskell (G1) victory in the summer. Back around one turn in the Cigar Mile (G1), he dominated older horses in December to cap off an impressive campaign. He prefers to set the pace but has proven that sitting off other horses is not a problem. Rating may be necessary here. The pick
  1. MCKINZIE, 7/2 (Street Sense – Bob Baffert – 14: 7-6-0): With 13 first or second-place finishes in 14 starts, it is hard to knock McKinzie’s consistency. In his most recent start, he ran a good second to Vino Rosso in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 1 1/4-mile distance proved a little too far, and now he cuts back to his favoured nine furlongs. With Baffert in his corner, he also has an experienced trainer who knows how to ship to the Middle East to win. Win contender.
  1. CHRYSOBERYL, 12-1 (Gold Allure – Hidetaka Otanashi – 6: 6-0-0): As an American who does not closely follow Japanese racing, this one is tougher to analyse. But here is one note about Chrysoberyl’s win in the Champions Cup (G1). He received an excellent, ground-saving trip and found a big opening when tipped out. Even with his perfect six-for-six record, you can count on his competition here to be much stiffer and the trip tougher.
  2. GREAT SCOT, 50-1 (Requinto – Trainer TBA – 11: 4-1-2): Most American handicappers will not recognise this horse. He did take the Superior Mile (G3) at Haydock last September when in the care of Tom Dascombe. Saudi interests purchased him to run in this event, and the former trainer mentioned after the transaction that this horse improved with the gelding, but would be fortunate to hit the board. He appears overmatched.
  3. MAGIC WAND, 15-1 (Galileo – Aidan O’Brien – 23: 3-9-2): This mare’s ability to travel anywhere in the world and still run at a high level is admirable. In Magic Wand’s most recent start, she finished a good second after finding herself on the early lead in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1). Dirt is an unknown for Magic Wand, however, and her breeding spells grass on both sides.
  4. CAPEZZANO, 20-1 (Bernardini – Salem Bin Ghadayer – 16: 6-1-2): The same concern for Benbatl and North America applies to Capezzano. Against weaker horses in the Firebreak Stakes (G3) at Meydan, Capezzano set the pace and rolled home to an easy win. In this spot, though, there are dirt horses in another league than the ones he defeated. Capezzano does not enjoy racing off the pace, which means he will face a stressful first half with quality speedsters in the mix upfront.
  5. MIJACK, 50-1 (Elzaam – Sami Alharabi –): This local contender won The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup (G1) earlier this month for horses imported to Saudi Arabia, to secure his spot in the field. Race officials selected him over the winner of the other division on the same card for strictly local horses. Earlier in his career, he struggled in Europe, never amounting to more than a handicap horse. The presence of international stars will prove too much here.