US $20,000,000 The Saudi Cup – 1800m
Benbatl (GB) – Appeared at 8am on Friday and had an easy canter around the 2000m dirt track with fellow Saeed bin Suroor pupil Final Song, who runs in the Samba Saudi Derby. If victorious on Saturday, the son of Dubawi will add to an already sparkling resume and hoist his career earnings over $15.7 million.
“It will be a very important race and we hope he runs well,” Bin Suroor said. “You have seen his results in the past – he always runs well, whether in England, Australia or Dubai or anywhere. He has that Group 1 class like some of our best horses (have had).”
Strategy will be of the utmost importance, given that the bay 6-year-old has drawn barrier three of the 14 runners, with much of the speed to his outside. A stalking type, he will likely take more dirt kickback than he ever has in his career, which includes only one dirt try.
“I would like to see him handy in the race,” Bin Suroor continued. “I would like to see him second or third early on. That would be good for him. He has speed and has proven himself on the dirt winning the Maktoum Challenge over 1900m. I think he will run a good race. He’s in good form.”
Tacitus (USA) – The grey/roan Tacitus made his way onto the dirt track just before 7.15am, as he has been doing all week. Accompanied by a pony, the 4-year-old Tapit colt stood – almost statue like – on the outside rail near the 1600m pole before galloping off for a circuit under the watchful eye his of trainer Bill Mott.
As a 3-year-old, Tacitus was just a notch below the American sophomores but danced all the dances, racing in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby (fourth), Grade 1 Belmont Stakes (second) and Grade 1 Travers Stakes (second) as well as against older rivals in the Grade 1 Jockey Cup Gold Cup (third).
“We’re of the belief that one day he’s going to break through (and win a major race). We’ve got to have a lot respect for a horse like Maximum Security, a very talented horse and (US) champion 3-year-old,” Mott said. “One day hopefully our horse matures. He’s a bigger later developing horse throughout this year and next year he’ll really come into his own. I think he had (filled out some since his 3-year-old season) which is supposed to happen.”
Magic Wand (IRE) – On the eve of the inaugural Saudi Cup, the sole Irish challenger once again joined stable companion Mount Everest on the dirt track.
“Magic Wand did the same thing this morning – just a canter on the track over seven furlongs (1400m),” said trainer Aidan O’Brien from Ireland. “She is an amazing filly really and has managed to hold her form all year. This will be her first time on the dirt but we have been building up for this race and purposely keeping her first run on the dirt for the Saudi Cup.
“Everything seems good and everyone seems to love the track, the surface and the facilities over there.”
McKinzie (USA) and Mucho Gusto (USA) – The Bob Baffert-trained duo had an easy morning on Friday, having completed their major works in the United States. According to the trainer each had a light jog and gallop.
Midnight Bisou (USA) – The 4-year-old filly was out as soon as the track opened for its 7am session and galloped 1600m according to assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who has been overseeing the Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Midnight Lute.
North America (GB) – The eight-year-old stretched his legs on Friday morning in company with several fellow Satish Seemar trainees. With assistant trainer Bhupat Seemar watching from the gap, the son of Dubawi appeared comfortable following Lake Causeway and being followed by Gladiator King in a 2000m hack around the dirt oval.
A confirmed front-runner, the gingerly campaigned charge will make only his 20th start when he breaks from what appears to be an advantageous post four.
“If he doesn’t have anything in his way in the first two furlongs, I think he’s OK and will be in good shape,” Satish Seemar said.
“Once he gets his momentum going, he’s such a big horse that that’s when his stride becomes dangerous. He is a little overlooked because a lot of people expected him to win last out, but didn’t know that he injured himself in the race. I’m not down or depressed about the loss – he hurt the frog of his hoof and was bleeding – I’m just happy that he’s fine now and training like his old self.
“He’s won all three legs of the Maktoum Challenge and Group 1s, 2s and 3s over a mile and up to a mile and a quarter,” Seemar concluded. “He’s a special horse to Zabeel and Dubai.”
Maximum Security (USA) – Had a light gallop over the training track on Friday morning. “All systems are go,” said trainer Jason Servis.
Chrysoberyl (JPN) – Stayed in the quarantine stable.
“I have been checking his condition carefully after his gallop yesterday,” said trainer Hidetaka Otonashi.
“He is very fit and has a beautiful coat, his condition shows a lot of improvement since his arrival. He knows the race is coming soon since Christophe Soumillon rode him yesterday. I think everything is going well. Soumillon said he would be able to watch the American speed horses from our outside post. The colt can sit handily and is a very versatile type of horse, so hopefully he can run a good race.”
Gold Dream (JPN) – Schooled at the paddock and cantered on the dirt track.
“He used to have temperament issues and was not easy to take care of, however as he ages, he is getting easier to handle, said trainer Osamu Hirata.
“I think the race will depend on how he jumps from the gate but I do not want him to be sandwiched on the rail. He starts out of the gate quickly recently, so sitting just behind the American speed horses is my ideal plan. I will let the jockey (Christophe Lemaire) ride what he thinks the best way is.”
Capezzano (USA) and Gronkowski (USA) – Salem bin Ghadayer’s Saudi Cup duo of Sultan Ali’s Capezzano and Phoenix Thoroughbreds and Khalid bin Mishrif’s Gronkowski went out at 8am in company with another stablemate for an easy canter around the dirt track. Gronkowski, a creature of noticeable scale, led the trio as they stretched their legs a day before the $20 million event.
Capezzano must overcome a shorter turnaround than any of his competitors when he starts just 16 days after dismantling the Firebreak field at Meydan Racecourse over 1600m. A Group 1 winner over 2000m, he gets his first try over 1800m on Saturday, but appears well-suited with his forward style.
“The two weeks is no worry for Capezzano,” Bin Ghadayer said. “Both horses are very fit and we’re going to pray that everything goes well.
“They’re both 100% and are ready to run. We won’t change anything for Capezzano’s style. We will let him break and be happy. He has proved he doesn’t need the lead, but he will show speed. Mickael will ride him with confidence and I’m very happy with his mood, as he can be very tough.
“He travelled really well and was nice and relaxed. I was worried about him because he can be nervous. As far as the post, it could wind up being an advantage here on this track with the long run (to the first turn). Hopefully he will break well and the outside will help him have less traffic.
“Gronkowski is doing very well and we finally have him close to where we had him before the Dubai World Cup last year when he was second,” Bin Ghadayer continued. “His weight is good and he is fit; good muscle and good shape.”