Dubai: Dubai’s Military Law takes on several formidable rivals from America and Europe as he bids to win the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race, and claim the biggest career victory for his Emirati trainer Emirati Musebeh Al Muhairi.
A six-year-old gelded son of top sire Dubawi, Military Law warmed up for the Saudi showpiece by taking the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge over a mile on Meydan’s dirt track.
Al Muheiri believes that performance has put him spot on to run the race of his life at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday at 9.40pm UAE time.
Stable jockey Antonio Fresu concurs with his boss and said: “He was good. He seems to be looking around a lot at the new place, but he went really well on the track. When I finished cantering, he was very proud of himself going back to the stable. He was moving great on the surface. I think it’s a beautiful track.”
Military Law will break from post 10 of 14 with ante-post favourite Charlatan, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, to his left in the No. 9 post.
Knicks Go, trained by Brad Cox, enters the Saudi Cup following a successful seasonal debut in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup on January 23 at Gulfstream Park. The five-year-old son of Paynter who is on a three-race winning streak, will break from the No 5 gate.
Mishriff, trained by John Gosden in the UK and winner of the 2020 French Derby (G1), is the third favourite while all other runners are 10-or higher.
Military Law had his first look at the King Abdulaziz track on Thursday morning, having been shipped in to Saudi on Tuesday evening. Maria Ritchie, assistant to trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri, commented: “He’s come through very well shipping and his work has been very good leading up to the race.
“We can’t ask much more. He’s fresh and in great form and I think he has a lot more to show, even though he’s six. He’s a lot stronger than last season and Antonio (Fresu, jockey) is very comfortable with him.”
Winner of the Malibu Stakes (G1) in his four-year-old debut, Charlatan is the steady 7-5 favorite. The son of Speightstown has won all four of his starts. “He’s a very good traveller. That hasn’t been any kind of a factor,’’ said Barnes. “The weather has been pleasant. It hasn’t been hot so that always makes the trip easier. [We’ve] been here over a week and ready to get it on.”
Knicks Go is also 4-for-4 and Cox’s assistant Dustin Dugas said of the draw: “We like it. He’s a speed horse, it’s a long way till they get to the turn, Joel will have a lot of ground to work at before he gets to the turn.”
The other US-based horses include Max Player who leaves from the No. 4 post, a fifth-place finisher in last year’s inaugural edition of the Saudi Cup; Tacitus from gate 7 and Sleepy Eyes Todd from gate 8.
Extra Elusive, who will be ridden by 2020 British sensation Hollie Doyle, is drawn on the outside in the No. 14 post, while Japan’s Chuwa Wizard has the inside No. 1 post.
“He is a versatile horse and can run from any position,’’ said Keita Tosaku, Chuwa Wizard’s jockey. “So, the inside draw may help us.”
Roger Charlton, trainer of Extra Elusive, likes his spot, too: “I’m happy with the draw for Extra Elusive in stall 14. He hasn’t run on the dirt before, and he’s probably a horse who doesn’t like to be crowded that much, so I think that gives him and Hollie a good shot down the outside.”
Other notable contenders include the Andrew Balding-trained Bangkok, Great Scot, Global Giant, Simsir, Mishriff, and Derevo, a last-minute entry for the race.
The Saudi Cup undercard will be aired live from 5:30 pm UAE time and will feature six stakes races including the $1 million Turf Sprint, $2.5 million Turf Handicap, $1 million Local Handicap, $2 million Arabian Classic, $1.5 million Saudi Derby and the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint.
Saudi Cup $12m 1,800m Dirt
11/8 Charlatan , 5/2 Knicks Go , 6/1 Mishriff , 12/1 Military Law , 14/1 Tacitus , 14/1 Chuwa Wizard , 25/1 Sleepy Eyes Todd , 25/1 Max Player , 33/1 Global Giant , 33/1 Extra Elusive , 33/1 Bangkok , 33/1 Derevo , 33/1 Simsir , 50/1 Great Scot.