By Jon Lees
Saudi Arabia: July Cup winner Oxted is set to switch to dirt for the first time when he runs at the Saudi Cup meeting next month.
The five-year-old sprinter has two options at the February 20 fixture: the 1351 Turf Sprint, over nearly 7f, or the Riyadh Dirt Sprint over 6f on dirt.
“At the moment we are favouring the dirt, purely because it’s six furlongs,” said trainer Roger Teal. “The surface is unknown but it’s a flat six furlongs and I think that’s the way we are going to go.
“He’s a good-moving horse, he likes the top of the ground. He handles all sorts of ground, he trains on an all-weather surface every day.
“The reports are very good about the dirt track in Saudi. That gives us confidence. There is not too much kickback apparently. As long as there wasn’t going to be tons of kickback we are going to be happy to run him on it.”
Oxted, who will be ridden by regular partner Cieren Fallon, shone at Group level last year, delivering Teal and Fallon their first G1 victories at Newmarket in a three-race campaign that ended with a fifth place in the Qipco British Champions Sprint, in which he was only beaten a length.
“He’s in good shape and he looks magnificent,” said Teal. “He had a short break after Ascot. He had a month away and he came back looking absolutely tremendous. He has really blossomed.
“The timing of this race was good for us. We have had enough time to give him a break and then prepare him for the season ahead. We can go to Saudi, come back, maybe go to Dubai for World Cup night if things go to plan. We can then prepare for Ascot and then go for another July Cup. He’s never travelled before so we will be a little bit wiser after the event.”
Of Oxted’s chances, Teal said: “He has good gate speed. He travels strong. In last year’s race the Japanese tore away and broke 20 clear and looked like he had the race won, but New York Central came from the back of the pack and ran him down. It was a strong run race and that’ll suit him.”
• Visit the Saudi Cup website