UPDATE! WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SAUDI CUP…
By Jon Lees
Saudi Arabia: John Gosden believes a wide draw could be key to the chances of top European runner Mishriff beating the US competition in the $20 million Saudi Cup.
French Derby winner Mishriff will return to Riyadh next month for the world’s richest race having finished runner-up a year ago in the Saudi Derby on his first start on dirt.
Owned by Saudi owner and breeder Prince A A Faisal, Mishriff was drawn 12 of 14. He recovered from a slow start to take second place behind Japan’s Full Flat in the 1m race.
“First time on the dirt you never know,” said Gosden. “He did have the benefit of a wide draw. He stayed out there, had a lovely run, eased into the bend and ran on strongly, simply ran out of ground in the end. I’ve just asked the owner if he can be kind enough to make sure we have a nice wide draw!”
He went on: “This is nine furlongs and you remember from the race last year the American horses break, that’s their game, they are very fast over the first quarter and you really don’t want to be getting in behind all of that.
“If you get a basin full of dirt in your faces, that’s what stops the turf horses when they switch. They are just not used to taking all that kickback. They start to climb, tend to hold their breath. It puts them off completely. That’s why a wide draw would be very advantageous.”
Mishriff was a little-known winner of a Nottingham maiden when he lined up as a 16-1 chance in the Saudi Derby, in which the colt’s subsequent second place proved the springboard to a Classic-winning campaign in which he won the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) two starts later followed by the G2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville.
He was only eighth of ten on his final start in the G1 Champion Stakes, run on soft ground at Ascot.
“Ascot was unfortunate for the ground,” Gosden said, speaking at a Saudi Cup media event. “I strongly feel they should have switched to the inner turf, the hurdles track, which was riding the easy side of good to soft. It would have been fabulous racing. All of ours got stuck in the bog we had there.”
He added: “He’s had nice downtime building up to this. He is not a horse that requires a massive amount of work.”
Mishriff, who will be ridden by the owner’s retained rider David Egan, will be one of three runners at the Saudi Cup meeting for the Gosden stable, whose team will also include Global Giant in the Middle Distance Turf Cup and new acquisition New Treasure, a G3 winner bought out of Jim Bolger’s stable, in the Saudi Derby.
Bahraini-owned Global Giant failed by a neck to catch Simsir in the Bahrain International Trophy in November. “The horse was as frustrated as the jockey and the owner and the trainer,” said Gosden.
“He got too far back and got there too late, the wire came up about a stride and a half too soon. I think distance-wise [2100m] is the top end of his range. He loves fast ground and he is in good form right now.”
New Treasure will stay in Saudi Arabia after one run for the stable, the trainer said. “He was in the Horses In Training sale,” said Gosden. “He didn’t make a great deal of money. He has been sprinting but I think he’ll handle the dirt. He could be up on the lead the way he goes at home. He’s a fun horse to run in the race.”
• Visit the Saudi Cup website