By Nicholas Godfrey
GB: Trainer Andrew Balding is keeping his fingers crossed that Bangkok has done enough to earn a place in the world’s richest race after breaking the course record with an impressive display in the Betway Listed Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield on Saturday.
After King Power Racing’s four-year-old had overwhelmed Court House in a 4½-length victory under Rob Hornby in the Listed contest on the all-weather, Balding was left hoping an invitation to the $20 millon Saudi Cup at King Albudlaziz racecourse on February 29 might be forthcoming.
Saturday’s race was a ‘fast-track qualifier’ for the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic back on the Polytrack on All-Weather Finals Day, Good Friday, April 10.
However, Balding and King Power’s retained rider Silvestre de Sousa are eager to try the son of Australia on dirt for a rather more substantial prize in Riyadh.
“It would be tempting from my point of few to play it safe and come back here for the Winter Derby and Good Friday,” the trainer admitted. “But if he was to get an invitation to Saudi Arabia for the big one there I know Silvestre is very keen on that.
“Obviously, it will be the owners’ decision and we will discuss it, but if he was to get an invite for Saudi, I would be tempted to give the dirt a go to be honest, as I think he would run pretty well.”
A place in the final field for the $20m Saudi Cup and a chance to face top US dirt specialists such as Maximum Security, McKinzie and Midnight Bisou will be much coveted.
“It is a different type of dirt according to Silvestre but the benchmark to get invited is going to be pretty high,” added Balding. “Hopefully, he has done enough today to get one and then we can consider it. Maybe it is something we could do next year. All options are open.”
Bangkok had fitness on his side, having returned from a break to finish second in the Qatar Derby at Doha on December 21. “Bangkok is a class horse,” said Balding.
“I really thought going into the Derby last year [finished 12th] that we had a great chance, as he had been working so well, and for whatever reason he did not turn up. It has been a bit of a retrieval mission since, but he is a very good horse who is growing up mentally now and will have a good season ahead of him I hope.”