From the Saudi Cup Media Team:

  • Bahrain trainer planning a happy return after last year’s historic win


Ground-breaking trainer Fawzi Nass is preparing an assault on the $20 million Saudi Cup with Bahrain International winner Simsir.


Nass made history at the inaugural Saudi Cup meeting last year when his Port Lions pulled off a shock win by defeating Japan’s star mare Deirdre in what is now called The Neom Turf Cup, the first turf race ever held in Saudi Arabia.


Now he has the world’s most valuable race in his sights with Simsir. The five-year-old will take on some of the world’s best dirt horses, including Pegasus World Cup winner Knicks Go and rising star Charlatan, in the 1800m contest on February 20.


Bahrain-based Nass will also aim a three-strong challenge at the first running of the Al Rajhi Bank International Handicap on February 19, the day before The Saudi Cup.


He is targeting last month’s Crown Prince Cup winner New Show, as well as stablemates Desert Lion and What A Welcome, at the 2100m contest, which is open to horses trained in countries not included in the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ Part One nations.


Nass said: “Simsir is doing well. He’s had an easy time since winning the Bahrain International Trophy in November, so we thought, if we’re going to go to Saudi, we needed to get a run into him. We had the Crown Prince Cup, which was a hot race over 2000m, and he finished a close fourth. Things didn’t go his way, he missed the break and he had to come from behind, which doesn’t suit a galloping horse like him. He didn’t disgrace himself and we’re happy with that being his prep run for The Saudi Cup.

“Desert Lion, What A Welcome and New Show, the winner of the Crown Prince Cup, are all going for the Al Rajhi Bank International Handicap, which is over 2100m on the turf. I’m not sure what the competition will be like but I’m happy with them and their preparation.


“Simsir and What A Welcome will be ridden by Adrie de Vries, who won on Port Lions at the meeting last year for us, so we’ll stick with the same luck. Desert Lion will hopefully be ridden by Paddy Mathers, who gets on well with him here in Bahrain, and New Show will hopefully be ridden by David Egan.”

The return to King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh will obviously bring back happy memories for Nass after last year’s famous victory.

He remembered: “It was an amazing experience. We went there knowing that we had a chance to nick a place but, obviously, everyone thought Deirdre had the race done and dusted. Overall, it was an amazing day and the feeling was good.


“I think the track is second to none really – up there with the best of the turf tracks. There was an amazing cushion and cover on the grass. Knowing that they had laid it so close to the race, all the jockeys obviously loved it. It’s a very, very nice turf track.


“The Saudi Cup meeting is very important, especially for us in Bahrain, as we look at Saudi Arabia as the mother country. It’s always a pleasure to participate in those events in Saudi Arabia, so it would be nice if we can win another race again.”