By: Joseph Hammond
International Sports Correspondent
Sports Talk Florida
Riyadh: We are just a little more than 12 hours away from The inaugural Saudi Cup which will offer a stunning purse of $20 million. When you offer a prize of that magnitude then you are going to attract some of the greatest horses from around the world and some of the top trainers all wanting to bring home the biggest prize in the sport.
The day will promise some outstanding racing with eight races making up the card and it can be seen here in the United States on FS 1 with things getting underway at noon eastern time.Listen to “Joseph Hammond Previews the Saudi Cup – The World’s Richest Horse race for Sports Talk Florida” on Spreaker.
The favorite is an American horse that is certainly well known and we are talking about none other than Maximum Security, who picked up a dominant win last time out in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct. In 2019, this horse crossed the wire first all but once, and his Kentucky Derby (G1) disqualification quite likely cost him Horse of the Year honors. He’ll look for a major payday in this spot as he breaks from post 7 with Luis Saez aboard.
“He’s fast, he’s quick and gets out of trouble,” said legendary trainer Bob Baffert at a pre-race press-conference on Thursday of Maximum Security who Baffert’s horse will face. Baffert joked he was disappointed when he saw that the horse was coming to Riyadh before adding.
“I don’t think about the competition, that is the Jockey’s job.”
Baffert and his group of horse’s led by the recent Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner Mucho Gusto will look to make it two big paydays in a row, however Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) runner-up McKinzie looms as an equally-dangerous threat. Mucho Gusto drew post 8 for the event, while McKinzie will break from gate 9 indeed all of the American horse in the event are bunched together.
Baffert’s horses have to content with a French-made starting gate that Baffert says is smaller than those used in the United States but, that his horses have been adjusting well to them.
Another horse with American connections is Gronkowski who was bout by Saudi Arabian owner Khalid bin Mishref ahead of this event. The horse is named for three-time Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski a dominant tight-end during his stint with the NFL’s New England Patriots. Gronkowski is a minority owner in the race horse who finished second in the Belmont in 2018 and second in the Dubai World Cup 2019.
However, in that race Gronkowski lost after a unusual photo-finish (see podcast). The King Abdulaziz Racetrack’s dirt features less kickback which might also aid Gronkowski whose style favors an effort to close down the final stretch.
Could it be Ladies Day at The Saudi Cup?
Well the America’s 2019 Older Female of the Year Midnight Bisou, seems poised to battle the men on this challenging fast track and with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard she might be worth a look.
As we look at this impressive field at the inaugural Saudi Cup: Gold Dream, Tacitus, Benbatl, North America, Gronkowski, Midnight Bisou, Maximum Security, Mucho Gusto, McKinzie, Chrysoberyl, Great Scot, Magic Wand, Capezzano, and Mijack.
There are plenty of betting choices to like come Saturday in this nine furlong race for the ages.