Saudi Cup: Bahraini pioneer Fawzi Nass targets more international success with Simsir

Horse Racing Fawzi Nass Port Lions Saudi Arabia
Ground-breaker: Fawzi Nass (fourth right) and Port Lions team after their historic success. Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood

Saudi Arabia: From Bahrain to Riyadh, ground-breaking international trainer Fawzi Nass is preparing an assault on the $20 million Saudi Cup with Bahrain International winner Simsir.

Nass, in Group-winning form last week at the Dubai Carnival with Salute The Soldier, made history at the inaugural Saudi Cup meeting last year when his Port Lions pulled off a shock win by defeating Japan’s star mare Deirdre in what is now called the Neom Turf Cup, the first race on grass ever held in Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain enjoyed a second success on the card when Frankie Dettori partnered Dark Power for multiple champion trainer Allan Smith in the stc 1351 Cup, where the gelding will seek a repeat success on Saturday’s card.

Nass, however, now has the world’s most valuable race in his sights as Simsir takes on America’s top dirt horses in the Saudi Cup, while he also mounts a three-strong challenge at the first running of the Al Rajhi Bank International Handicap on Friday’s card.

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Crown Prince Cup winner New Show plus stablemates Desert Lion and What A Welcome will run in the 2,100m contest, which is open to horses trained in countries not included in the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ Part One nations.

“Simsir is doing well,” said Bahraini-based Nass. “He’s had an easy time since winning the Bahrain International Trophy in November, so we thought, if we’re going to go to Saudi, we needed to get a run into him. 

Horse Racing Fawzi Nass trainer
Fawzi Nass with Dubai Carnival star Salute The Soldier. Photo: Erika Rasmussen/Dubai Racing Club

“We had the Crown Prince Cup, which was a hot race over 2,000m, and he finished a close fourth. Things didn’t go his way – he missed the break and he had to come from behind, which doesn’t suit a galloping horse like him. He didn’t disgrace himself and we’re happy with that being his prep run for the Saudi Cup.”

Adrie de Vries, who won on both Port Lions and Salute The Soldier, will ride Simsir and What A Welcome in Riyadh, while Paddy Mathers partners Desert Lion and David Egan gets the leg-up on New Show.

After last year’s exploits, Nass is looking forward to his return to King Abdulaziz racecourse. “It was an amazing experience,” he recalled.

“We went there knowing that we had a chance to nick a place but obviously everyone thought Deirdre had the race done and dusted. Overall, it was an amazing day and the feeling was good.

“I think the track is second to none really – up there with the best of the turf tracks. There was an amazing cushion and cover on the grass. Knowing that they had laid it so close to the race, all the jockeys obviously loved it. It’s a very, very nice turf track.

“The Saudi Cup meeting is very important, especially for us in Bahrain, as we look at Saudi Arabia as the mother country. It’s always a pleasure to participate in those events in Saudi Arabia, so it would be nice if we can win another race again.”

• Visit the Saudi Cup website and the Bahrain Racing website

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