UPDATE! WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SAUDI CUP…
By Nicholas Godfrey
Saudi Arabia: Bob Baffert has issued a positive bulletin about the chances of Saudi Cup favourite Charlatan ahead of the world’s richest race in Riyadh on February 20.
While there is still no decision from the Brad Cox team about the participation of Pegasus World Cup winner Knicks Go in the $20 million contest, Baffert is making confident noises about Charlatan.
“The Saudi Cup is perfect timing for Charlatan,” said the legendary west coast trainer. “It’s the perfect distance, we know he ships well and he’s a good gate horse. I think The Saudi Cup fits the bill perfectly for him.”
Baffert was speaking during a zoom media conference for the Saudi Cup, to be run for the second time next month over 1m1f on dirt at King Abdulaziz racecourse.
Charlatan, a four-year-old son of sprint star Speightstown, returned to action with a spectacular G1 victory in the Malibu Stakes over 7f at Santa Anita over Christmas, which put him in line for a crack at the Saudi Cup.
“He’s a really talented horse,” added Baffert. “He’s maturing and getting really good now. I think his talent makes up for his inexperience. He doesn’t know what it’s like to lose and I think that’s a good trait.
“It’s very challenging to go to somewhere like Saudi. You need a horse who has a really great mind and he’s got that. To win these races you need to be way the best when you’re travelling that far; I won the Dubai World Cup because I had way the best horse!
“I wouldn’t send him if I didn’t think he was doing really, really well. He’s got to be 100% and ready to roll. Today, I feel that way. I wish we were leaving this week – he’s ready right now.”
Baffert had two runners in the inaugural Saudi Cup last year with Mucho Gusto finishing best of them in fourth.
“I think The Saudi Cup is great because it gives these older horses a chance to stay in training an extra year and run for that kind of money,” he said. “It’s great but it is a challenge.”
Charlatan’s US compatriot Tacitus, who carries the colours of the late Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms operation, is set for another tilt for Cigar’s trainer Bill Mott.
“Any time we run a horse in the Juddmonte silks it’s very special,” said the trainer’s son Riley. “Last year when we brought Tacitus to Saudi Arabia he had a nice little following locally due to the fact he was a Juddmonte horse and he had a lot of fans there on race day.
“He’s been a little frustrating in that he always flirts with winning a top G1. He’s been placed in a lot of prestigious races in the US. For him to win one of these big G1s would mean the world for him in his next career as a stallion.
“We were always under the impression he would get better with age. He’s done that from three to four, and from four to five it looks like he’s taken another step forward.”
Mott-trained stablemate Channel Maker will run in the $1m Middle Distance Turf Cup over 2,100 metres (1m2½f).
Saudi Cup betting (Ladbrokes): 2 Charlatan, 9-2 Knicks Go, 6 Mishriff, 8 Swiss Skydiver, Maxfield, 9 Military Law, 10 Tacitus, 12 Addeybb, Matterhorn, 14 Chuwa Wizard, 16 Code Of Honor, 20 bar.
• Visit the Saudi Cup website