By: Joseph Hammond – International Sports Correspondent
Sports Talk Florida
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – It was a scene of redemption in the desert for a storied American racehorse who has now earned himself a place in the record books. Florida Derby alum, Maximum Security battled down the stretch and saw off other American contenders in root to a historic win in the ever Saudi Cup. The win offered redemption for a horse that had been disqualified after winning the 2019 Kentucky Derby – an event so fateful that even President Donald Trump tweeted about.
“It’s got to be some vindication,” said trainer Jason Service, “…. I had a really good feeling the last few days” said after the horse again drew number 7 the same lucky number it had at the Florida an Kentucky Derbies as well as the Haskell Invitational and the Pennsylvania Derby.
No steward would deny Maximum Security in Saudi Arabia. As ridden by Luis Saez, a native of Panama, this time. Maximum Security crossed the finish line first ahead of Midnight Bissou and then Benbatl of Godolpin. The horses won $10 million, $3.5 million, and $2 million respectively. Saez described his horse as “the true Kentucky Derby winner.” in his post-race remarks.
“It’s amazing to win this race for the United States, for Panama, [and] for all me, Saez said who in addition to the prize money won a watch from Longines, one of the race’s sponsors and was sure to snag two Saudi cup baseball caps to help remember an epic night.
“Maximum Security is a great horse,” legendary American trainer Bob Baffert told Talk Sports Florida minutes after the Saudi Cup’s conclusion. Baffert who came up short with both Mucho Gusto and McKinzie — his two entries into the race. Baffert explained that his horses had been trying to avoid a middle which he had heard was soft. There may have been but, there is no doubt there was a presence of racing greatness.
Mucho Gusto won the Pegasus World Cup earlier this year in Florida but, that stroke of brilliance was not to be repeated.
Some 10,000 spectators packed the King Abdulaziz Racetrack for the first-ever edition of the Saudi Cup. None more special than his excellence King Salam of Saudi Arabia who personally attended the running of the Saudi Cup. The card also included the first three turf races in Saudi Arabian history. One that American race fans may want to keep an eye on is jockey Yutaka Take who rode Full Flat to victory in the Saudi Derby and gave a nod toward appearing in the Kentucky Derby the first weekend in May and giving Japan a historic win in an event which included representatives, jockeys and yes horses from myriad nations including Australia, Japan, the U.S., U.K, France, South Africa and elsewhere.
“I was excited to come here because the stakes are so high, and the fact that you could now come to Saudi Arabia,” says Chris Davies a British horse racing fan who attended the races from the general admission section. Saudi Arabia has eased entry requirements for sports fans and tourists.
Prior to this event, the kingdom has seen a flurry of sports activity in recent years. Several marquee boxing matches including the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz, Jr. last December for a piece of the heavyweight title. The kingdom has also hosted a number of European Tour golf events, two Formula E races, and the Spanish Super Cup. However, even more so than these other sports horse racing is organic to Saudi Arabia and dates back centuries. All modern Thoroughbreds can trace part of their bloodlines back to pure-blooded Arabians.
Most of the winners and contenders from the 8 race card are expected to compete in next month’s Dubai World Cup. Though trainer initially signaled no decision will be made on Maximum Security yet and the trainer seemed to think that his horse had been ridden hard in winning the Saudi Cup.
One observer looked unmoved by the result of the historic race. Mehmet Marangoz of Turkish Jockey Club and of the cleverly named Bosphorse social media company has seen many a great race in his day.
“On the dirt, you choose the Americans,” he told Sports Talk Florida with a shrug.