Saudi Cup: Joseph O’Brien in search of further global glory on rich undercard

Horse Racing Joseph O'Brien Iridessa
Joseph O’Brien, pictured with Iridessa after her Breeders’ Cup victory at Santa Anita.
Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Bill Denver/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

By Saudi Cup newswire team

Ireland: With successes at the Melbourne Cup and Breeders’ Cup already on his CV, Joseph O’Brien now has his eyes on another major global prize as he prepares to run both Downdraft and Twilight Payment in the $2.5 million Longines Turf Handicap at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack on Saturday.

The 26-year-old former champion jockey has already landed G1s in Ireland, Britain, Australia and the US in under four years with a licence.

Now attention turns to Saudi Arabia where O’Brien will have three runners on the inaugural Saudi Cup card with Speak In Colours also set to represent him in the $1m stc 1351 Cup.

As a son of Ireland’s perennial champion trainer, Aidan O’Brien, it is no surprise that training racehorses was a route taken by Joseph. However, such success in a short space of time has surpassed all expectations.

Downdraft and Twilight Payment both ran in the Melbourne Cup on their last start but the former won the G3 Hotham Stakes at Flemington three days earlier on the same day that O’Brien won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf with Iridessa back in November.

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“We are very lucky to have the owners and the horses to travel to these races,” O’Brien said from his County Kilkenny training yard on Wednesday morning. 

“The world is a small place nowadays and you can have a crack at any race in the world if you have the horse. As soon as this race day was launched and we had a look at the races and we were keen to have a few runners.”

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Ryan Moore will ride Downdraft in the Longines Turf Handicap, while Wayne Lordan rides Twilight Payment and the trainer reports both horses to have travelled over to Saudi Arabia well this week.

“All of the horses travelled good and seem to be in good shape. Downdraft had good form in Australia and he has had a good prep before heading out to Saudi Arabia,” O’Brien went on.

“We’ll just be hoping for a good draw for both horses now. We’ve been happy with Twilight Payment here at home and the course conditions should suit him.

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“With those type of staying horses pot hunting is key throughout the year so we knew they’d fit the bill for the Longines Turf Handicap. Wherever the best prize-money is, that is where we try to target for all of our horses and that’s why we are there.”

O’Brien has not only assembled an enviable team of Flat horses he was also quick to snap up former Grand National-winning jockey Brendan Powell for his burgeoning operation once Powell decided to end his own training career.

Horse Racing Joseph O'Brien string
Brendan Powell supervises the Joseph O’Brien string in Saudi Arabia.
Photo: Jockey Club of Royal Saudi Arabia/Doug De Felice

Powell is in Saudi Arabia to oversee the preparations and he has nothing but admiration for O’Brien. “I have never known anyone to work like Joseph,” Powell said. 

“I think he must have a photographic memory because he remembers the form of all the horses and their breeding and everything about them. He has 120 people working there and it is a very young and enthusiastic team, but the results have proven that he can do it. He’s definitely his father’s son.”

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