Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The luck of the draw appears to have favoured the mighty American raiders in the $20 million Saudi Cup, with four strongly fancied contenders drawn well in the middle of the 14-runner field while the connections of Dubai’s Benbatl had nothing to complain about either after the tri-continental Group 1 winner earned a slot in Gate 3.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) victory Maximum Security (Jason Servis), the 5-2 favourite, will break from stall seven with fellow American raiders Midnight Bisou (Steve Asmussen 8-1), the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) runner-up on his inside and last month’s Pegasus Cuo winner Mucho Gusto (Bob Baffert 10-1) on his right.
The fourth State side raider and second favourite McKinzie (Baffert 7/2), who has placed first or second in 14 starts, drew the No. 9 gate.
Other Dubai contenders, including the Satish Seemar-trained North American (30-1) drew Gate No. 4, while Salem Bin Ghadayer’s duo of Capezzano (20-1) was pushed to the outside in Gate 13 with stable companion Gronkowski (20-1) earning a sweet-spot in Gate 5.
After conveying the news to Benbatl’s trainer Saeed Bin Surour in Dubai Godolphin’s Ricardo Corona said: “Saeed is happy with the draw. Benbatl is a horse who breaks well and has good gate speed.
“He’s a very experienced horse and Oisin (Murphy) knows him well. He won well on his dirt debut so the surface should not be an issue. He’s in good form and we’re expecting a big run from him.”
Commenting the chances of his two runners, Capezzano and Gronkowski, Emirati handler Bin Ghadayer, whose stable has been in fine form during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, remained optimistic of the pair’s chances.
“Obviously 13 is very wide for Capezzano but what can you do about that? However, he has natural speed and there’s a long run to the turn for him to get into a good position. We’re hoping he can overcome the wide draw as there will be a lot of early pace which could help him.
“Gronkowski has a good draw which should help him get into a good position early. He’s been doing well in the morning and looks sound and happy, so we’re hopeful.”
Commenting on the Gate 7 which Maximum Security drew his trainer, Jason Servis said of his stable star:
“I’m good with the post. I probably would have preferred a little more outside but that’s fine. We were drawn seven in the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Haskell and now the Saudi Cup. We’ll see what happens.”
Always the pragmatist Hall of Fame winning handler Bob Baffert said of McKinzie’s draw: “Nines are good. I find it interesting that all the Americans drew together six, seven, eight and nine, they’re going to have to bring their a-games, you can’t show up with your B-game.”
North America, who was favourite to win last year’s Dubai World Cup, has a draw which will suit his running style and Evgeny Kappushev, the owner’s representative, said: “It’s the perfect draw. I’ve been in touch with Satish Seemar.
“He was very pleased. He wanted between three and five so to draw four is perfect. This is a very, very lucky number for us.
“We won the UAE Derby last year from stall four and also won the Russian Derby from stall four, so it is a good sign!”
So it looks like the Saudi Cup could very much be a battle between American and UAE gallopers, with all to play for.