Riyadh: Maximum Security secured his place in racing history as the first winner of the $20 million Saudi Cup, the richest race in the world held at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, as Dubai’s Benbatl showed plenty of heart to finish a courageous gutsy third.
America’s top dirt star from last year, who was disqualified after winning the 2019 Kentucky Derby (for causing interference to the runner-up), justifiably set the record straight with a performance that will go a long way to help erase memories of that controversial decision taken by the Stewards at Chruchill Downs.
Ridden with supreme confidence by Panamanian jockey Luis Saez, the four-year-old New Year’s Day colt held-off Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) winner Midnight Bisou, the mount of Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith, to score a 3/4 length victory.
Benbatl, a tri-continental Group 1 champion representing the Dubai-owned Godolphin stable, stayed on gamely to finish third, two lengths further back.
Maximum Security was brought wide off the final turn in the 1,800metre contest and switched to the inside by Sers as Midnight Bisou raced strongly on the inside rail, a position she held almost from the start.
As the finish loomed, Saez asked him mount for more and the response was spontaneous.
Maximum Security gained control of the race in a matter of stride, and although he needed to dig deep, a historic victory was now never in doubt.
“This is amazing, to travel halfway round the world to this place and to win such a prestigious race,” said Saez.
“This victory is for my team, for the owners and for my people in Panama, I’m so happy. He’s just some horse.”
Maximum Security will next head to Dubai in a bid to complete an audacious big-race double by winning the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan Racecourse on March 28.
“This was always the plan,” said winning trainer Jason Servis who has been training since 2001. “There is a reasonably gap between the two races so it should not pose too much of a problem.”
Reflecting on winning the Saudi Cup the West Virginia-born Servis, said: “This, perhaps is the biggest win of my career. It’s certainly the most exciting, it’s the richest race after all.”
Earlier in the evening Godolphin’s Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter had to settle for fifth place behind French raider Call The Wild in the $2.5 million Longines Company Handicap, the second richest race on the card.
Charlie Appleby’s galloper appeared to have every chance as the field turned for home in the 3,000 metre turf contest, but was caught out for speed as a quartet of horses flew past him.
Peslier, a master judge of pace, wove his way through the bunch upfront to find the gap that he was looking for, and once in the clear let Call of the Wild demonstrate his relentless staying ability for a 2 ½ length victory.
Three British hopefuls led by the Jamie Osborne-trained Mekong chased the winner to the finish but could not narrow the gap. The evergreen Prince Of Arran, ridden by Godolphin jockey James Doyle for trainer Charlie Fellows, finished third.
Winning trainer Freddy Head said: "Call the Wind showed how good he is there. He was able to quicken on that ground, which I wasn’t sure about.
“He stays and has a lot of stamina and I think he’s still improving."
Peslier added: “I’m very happy with the horse. He’s a Group 1 horse and you need a Group 1 horse to come to this race in Saudi Arabia.:
Bahraini-owned and trained horses scored major upsets in the opening two races of an eight event card.
The first of these was delivered by globetrotting Dutch rider Adrie de Vries aboard the Fawzi Nass-trainer Port Lions, a 40/1 outsider.
It was the first-ever turf race to be run at the new Riyadh racecourse and what a shock it provided when the big favourite Deirdre being beaten to second place in the Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup run over a distance of 1mile 2½ furlongs.
The second shock of the card was masterminded by the incomparable Frankie Dettori and 66-1 outsider Dark Power in the STC 1351 Sprint Cup over 1200 metres on Turf.