From St Moritz to Saudi Cup: George Baker is on his travels again

Horse Racing Graignes
New recruit: Graignes gets ready for his debut for George Baker with a spin on the Saudi sand.
Photo: Laura Green/ Jockey Club of Royal Saudi Arabia/Doug De Felice

By Saudi Cup newswire team

Saudi Arabia: British trainer George Baker has already plundered the silver of St Moritz this February and now has his sights set on the desert gold with his new acquisition Graignes poised for a $1m event on Saturday’s Saudi Cup undercard.

Wargrave was having his first start for Baker when making all to land the feature event, the Grosser Preis von St Moritz, on the frozen lake in Switzerland just under two weeks ago.

Now he is looking for French import Graignes to repeat the feat for a more lucrative prize under Pat Cosgrave in the stc 1351 Turf Sprint on the new turf course at King Abdulaziz racecourse on the outskirts of Riyadh.

“We pulled off the first half of the February double up that mountain and I can’t wait to see if we can pull off the second half in Saudi Arabia,” said Baker.

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“It would be beyond our wildest dreams to see him win it but I would be disappointed if he didn’t run well. We went a little off-piste going to St Moritz and this is totally different again.”

Graignes, who is a 25-1 outsider with British bookmakers, won only once as a juvenile for former trainer Yann Barberot but took his form to a new level in 2019 with a fourth-placed finish in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and two solid runs in G1 company, including when last seen taking fifth in the Prix de la Foret last October.

“We bought him in Paris at the sale the night before the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and he was an exciting buy,” explained Baker. “He was bought by our bloodstock agent in France, Sebastien Le Forban, as a yearling and he has followed his career ever since. We had an owner who wanted a proper horse so Sebastien earmarked him as the perfect horse.

“Sadly Sebastien died in Florida last month and he had been pivotal to our success in France so this horse is very much carrying his mark and he will be doing his hardest to give us a push from above. It would be a bitter-sweet win for us, but also a force of nature.”

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Baker has enjoyed success not just in Switzerland but also in Dubai and Turkey. “Running in races like this is what it is all about,” he went on. “We have been lucky enough to travel with the likes of old Belgian Bill and those big races are where you want to be.

“It is no cliché to say little fish are sweet but for a yard like us with only 50 or 60 horses then it is a huge privilege to be involved.”

The one slight negative for Graignes is the 1,351-metre (about 6¾f) trip, which Baker believes may just be slighter shorter than ideal. “It looks a very tough race and the trip might just be on the sharp side as he will end up being a 1,400 or even 1,600-metre horse,” explained the trainer.

“We will work back from the Foret and look at all the big mile races. He will probably end up in France at some point due to the premiums and he probably is best with a bit of cut in the ground.”

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