By Nicholas Godfrey
So you know Mishriff overcame the best American dirt specialists to win the second edition of the $20m Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz racecourse in Janadriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh. Here’s some other stuff you might like to know about the world’s richest raceday.
What’s going on?
Mishriff is 2-1 favourite for Dubai World Cup
After an incredible victory in the world’s richest race, Mishriff is the new favourite for the world’s second-richest race.
Having worn down Charlatan in the final 100 yards for a decisive one-length victory under his 21-year-old jockey David Egan, the John Gosden-trained four-year-old is rated a 2-1 chance with British bookmakers Ladbrokes to win the $12m Dubai World Cup at Meydan on March 27.
However, Gosden wasn’t to be drawn on future targets. “One race at a time,” he advised.
Dubai World Cup betting (Ladbrokes): 2 Mishriff, 5 Charlatan, 6 Maxfield, 8 Jesus’ Team, Knicks Go, Tacitus, 12 Military Law, Salute The Soldier, 16 Max Player, Military March, 20 Chuwa Wizard, 25 bar.
Accept no substitutes for winning rider
Although David Egan is retained rider to Mishriff’s Saudi owner Prince A A Faisal, he has missed out on partnering Mishriff more than once in the past due to various unfortunate circumstances, among them Covid-19 travel restrictions – which cost him the winning ride in the French Derby – and a short suspension, with Ioritz Mendizabal and Frankie Dettori deputising.
“Everyone connected with this horse has done such a great job and I’m just delighted to get back on board on the big day,” said the jockey, who is based in Bahrain for the winter.
“I can’t believe it but it was Mishriff that won it. He’s an absolute champion. I’m just privileged to be connected with such a class horse.”
G1 winner on both dirt and turf
Singspiel and Dubai Millennium spring to mind as Mishriff joined an exclusive club as a British-trained horse winning at the top level on both dirt and turf, his having already landed the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly in July.
“There are very few horses who can switch surfaces like that,” said trainer John Gosden, speaking from his Newmarket base. “But I’ve always been told by the top American jockeys and Frankie Dettori that this is the best main dirt track in the world. I think that’s very much proven today – that a turf horse can actually switch to it and put in a big performance. This is a superb track.”
Owner’s dream for horse named after best friend
Mishriff’s owner-breeder Prince Faisal was coveting a return visit almost as soon as he had passed the son of Make Believe – named after his best friend – had passed the post in second place in last year’s Saudi Derby.
John Gosden explained how the dream had come to fulfilment. “The team here at Clarehaven have done a great job with him,” he said. “It’s not easy to get a horse ready in the winter, with the snow and the ice.
“Any time you take on Bob Baffert with a horse of that class, you are pleased if you can get there, so full marks to my team.”
David Egan added: “Ever since he was second here last year I’m sure it was on Mr Gosden and Prince Faisal’s mind to come back here. With this race in Prince Faisal’s back garden, it was a no-brainer.”
‘Dad taught me everything I know’ – David Egan
Winning jockey David Egan was quick to thank his father, the popular veteran rider John Egan, who was on hand in Riyadh to share his son’s finest hour.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my dad John,” said David, 21. “He’s taught me everything I know and been a great dad – he’s helping out with the Bahrain horses and riding for Fawzi Nass in the mornings, so it’s very special to have him here.
“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be the rider or the person I am today. He’s done everything he can to help me in my career, pushed me and trained me hard and this one’s for him.”
‘It’s very, very special’ – John Egan
John Egan, for his part, was understandably emotional after the race. “I can’t explain it – it’s just very, very special,” he said to Hayley Moore on SkySports Racing.
“He’s been unlucky with this horse and missed riding a couple of winners through different circumstances. I’m just overcome, never had this feeling before.”
When it was mentioned that Egan snr had had a few big days in the saddle himself, he responded: “I haven’t had days like this – no, definitely not!”
Charlatan: ‘If he’d had two races, I think he’d win’ – Mike Smith
Charlatan’s connections were left ruing what might have been after the hitherto unbeaten colt was run down inside the final furlong for a one-length defeat. “He’s a fast horse, but that stretch …” mused trainer Bob Baffert. “I’m glad we don’t have any stretches like that in America!”
Jockey Mike Smith, finishing second again after last year’s similarly brave runner-up effort from Midnight Bisou, felt the lightly raced son of Speightstown just needed a little more seasoning.
“Speed wasn’t holding all day long,” he said. “He’s only ran once and that was a seven-eighths race. He got really tired. If he’d had two races, I think he’d win.”
Charlatan was overtaken as favourite on international markets by compatriot Knicks Go, the Pegasus World Cup winner. After being taken on up front by Charlatan, he was a spent force in the stretch and came fourth.
Neom Turf Cup: ‘Fantastic ride’ from Holle Doyle on True Self
A couple of wins on Champions Day at Ascot meant this was by no means the most prestigious success of Hollie Doyle’s stratospheric career.
However, it was definitely the most lucrative as True Self emerged from well behind a strong pace to overwhelm US turf champion Channel Maker to claim the $1m turf contest that opened the card.
Trainer Willie Mullins was left to hail a “fantastic ride” on the eight-year-old, who had finished sixth in the stayers’ handicap on this card 12 months ago. The much-travelled mare was last seen completing back-to-back successes in the G3 Queen Elizabeth Handicap at Flemington in November.
Incidentally, Doyle’s Saudi Cup mount Extra Elusive beat only one horse home in 13th place.
1351 Sprint: Al Quoz next for Space Blues
Dubai World Cup night beckons for Godolphin’s G1 winner Space Blues after the odds-on favourite returned from a six-month layoff to overcome last year’s winner Dark Power close home.
“He was the best horse and I didn’t want to go for any heroics,” said winning rider William Buick after the $1m contest. “You’d imagine this would set him for the Al Quoz.”
Dark Power was beaten three-quarters of a length in his bid for a repeat success under Frankie Dettori. We’ve been invited to the Dubai World Cup meeting for the Al Quoz and I suppose if anything that’ll be his next move,” said Bahraini-based trainer Allan Smith.
Red Sea Turf: Plans on hold for Prince Of Arran
Newmarket trainer Charlie Fellowes is considering the future of Melbourne Cup stalwart after the eight-year-old posted a lacklustre performance (ninth of 13 under Dettori) behind surprise winner Gifts Of Gold in the Red Sea Turf Handicap.
“All plans on hold for Prince Of Arran for the time being after a second very slow start in a row,” tweeted the Newmarket trainer.
“He owes us absolutely nothing and we will take our time before making any further decisions on his future. He is safe and well after his race and flies back to England on Monday.”
Saudi Derby: same race, more money, same result
Total prize-money for the Saudi Derby was nearly doubled to $1.5m (from $800,000) for the second edition, which was good news for Hideyuki Mori, who remains the only trainer to have tasted success in the race.
Having won the inaugural running with Full Flat, Mori repeated the dose with Pink Kamehameha, who chased the pace before holding US visitor Cowan, who flew home from the rear to claim second from John Gosden-trained New Treasure for second place.
A Japanese dirt-race double was completed in the next race, the Riyadh Dirt Sprint, by Copano Kicking.
Riyadh Dirt Sprint: carbon copy as Copano Kicking collects
Having been touched off by locally trained New York Central 12 months ago, trailblazing Japanese sprinter Matera Sky endured a similar fate this time around as he was nailed in the shadow of the post by late-running compatriot Copano Kicking to complete a double for William Buick. The winner is now heading for the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
Shall we talk about it?
Ted Voute (representative of Prince Faisal, Mishriff’s owner): “He was raised on the farm, Prince Faisal bred him. I bought the sire Make Believe as a foal for him. He’s bred the family all through the years and it means a lot to him. He was named after his best friend after he died. It’s amazing.”
John Gosden (Mishriff’s trainer): “It was a wonderful performance. He showed a lot of grit and courage, and he was able to go the pace of the American horses. It was great.
“What a brave horse, thank you to Prince Faisal and the whole team. It’s down to them and a brave horse, in what was a truly run race and certainly he had to have a lot of courage, never mind ability.
“You do need to break well and get a decent position – David rode a positive race and in the end basically outstayed the American horses. It wasn’t a crazy pace, I was impressed the two American jockeys were containing their horses. You have a world-record miler there and Brad Cox’s horse and they kept the rhythm right.
“We’ll all make decisions together as to how he is and what plans, and discuss it all with Prince Faisal. Take it a step at a time. After a flight like that and training in the winter, we’ll how the horse is for the next 10 days, two weeks when we get back before we start making any grand plans.”
David Egan (Mishriff’s jockey): “I always thought last year in the Derby that if he hadn’t jumped slow, he nearly would’ve nearly beaten the Japanese horse. So it’s redemption for him in Saudi, in Prince Faisal’s backyard.
“I spoke to a lot of people and got a lot of good advice about riding on the dirt, from people in America and a good friend of my dad’s Joe Deegan, who rode a lot in America and went through the race with me.
“He jumped as well as he’s ever done. I squeezed him along for the first 50 yards and I was surprised how well he was going down the back straight. I was on Mike Smith’s heels. Just up the straight when the two leaders kicked it just took him a little while to get going but thankfully he ran it home.
“He’s taken on some top-class horses from all round the world and he’s proved how good a horse he is and how much he has matured mentally and physically.”
Mike Smith (Charlatan’s jockey): “He’s just so lightly raced this year and the way the racetrack was playing all day, I got a little concerned because speed wasn’t holding all day long. He’s only ran once and that was a seven-eighths race. He got really tired. If he’d had two races, I think he’d win.”
Bob Baffert (Charlatan’s trainer): “I was very proud of his effort. Going in, we thought he would run his race. Turning for home, we knew they were going pretty fast early. He’s a fast horse, but that stretch … I’m glad we don’t have any stretches like that in America!”
Ryan Moore (Bangkok’s jockey): “He’s a tough horse, he did his best, but it was a difficult task especially on the dirt.”
Keita Tosaki (Chuwa Wizard’s jockey): “He seemed to slip a little bit when he jumped from the gate. He might not handle the surface as well as he did in a gallop a few days ago. He did not move forward as expected.”
Hollie Doyle (Extra Elusive’s jockey): “He jumped and he travelled beautifully but he just didn’t enjoy the kickback.”
Hollie Doyle (True Self’s jockey): “It has been an incredible year, so it’s great to get the new year off in a prestigious race such as this. I thought she was my best winning chance of the day – I watched all her performances and a step back in trip was a very clever move by Mr Mullins. They set a generous gallop the whole way round, but I managed to track them and got the splits up the straight. Willie said she’s got one burst of speed and that’s what she had.”
Willie Mullins (True Self’s trainer): “It was a fantastic ride by Hollie and the team have done a great job out there. We bought her originally as a mare to go hurdling with but she just has a huge amount of speed and all the jockeys who rode her said a mile and a quarter would suit her. It didn’t always work out but it was great to come for a big prize like this. The two plans this year were here and Australia at the end of the year. I’ll have to talk to the owners, OTI Racing, to decide what else we do.”
Charlie Appleby (Space Blues’s trainer): “We knew he was a class horse coming into the race and he had a lovely draw. I could see it was a bit loose for him and our concern was that he might just spin a bit on it, but he’s come back on the bridle turning in like a class horse and put the race to bed at the right time.”
Pat Cosgrave (Gifts Of Gold’s jockey): “He was 110 there in a handicap so you have to think he’s a horse for the Melbourne Cup maybe next year. He relaxes good and he has that turn of foot which is perfect for Melbourne.”
Hideyuki Mori (Pink Kamehameha’s trainer): “Everything went perfect today. He showed a very good response to the jockey at the final turn, which was kind of surprising to me. He was running on dirt for the first time but today’s surface with a bit of rain-affected track must suit him a lot.”
Akira Murayama (Copano Kicking’s trainer): “He is a very talented horse but he’s not easy to train – he’s temperamental, very edgy and overexcited and he didn’t do too much work this week before the race.
“I called the owner before the winner’s ceremony, he was very happy. He spoke to William and asked him to ride his horses again in Japan when he comes back. He will go to Dubai, hopefully for the Golden Shaheen. I thought it was going to be a tough race and I’m pleased that we beat last year’s winner.”