(Charlatan / Photo Courtesy of Coady Photography & Oaklawn Park)
From the Saudi Cup Media Team:
Bangkok (IRE) – Anna Lisa Balding was happy with what she saw from the British raider, who was not overly extended in a visit to the dirt track.
“He just had a trot around and then a canter around,” she said. “Her work rider Maddy O’Meara came back with a smile on her face, and that’s good enough for me.”
Charlatan (USA) – The Bob Baffert-trained 4-year-old followed his typical routine leading up to a race galloping 2400m over the dirt track.
Mike Smith has the call aboard the son of Speightstown who will leave from post nine for Saturday’s race.
“He has raw talent. He’s just so good. The one-turn mile and an eighth (1800m) should be just perfect for him,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said.
Chuwa Wizard (JPN) – A light day for the Japanese runner, who did not visit the track and instead walked around the parade ring with assistant trainer Kota Kato in the saddle to familiarise him to the raceday experience.
“Everything has been under control,” said trainer Ryuji Okubo. “We will decide whether he works on the main track or not later today.”
Knicks Go (USA) – Arriving at the track just after 7am, Korea Racing Authority’s Saudi Cup contender did an easy canter around the dirt oval under assistant trainer Dustin Dugas.
A three-time Grade 1 winner, the grey son of Paynter enters in the form of his career, fresh off an easy front-running victory in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
The victory marked his fourth consecutive victory and made him perfect in four starts for trainer Brad Cox. Previously trained by Ben Colebrook for two wins from 14 starts, he was a Grade 1 winner at two and was second to champion Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“At some point toward the end of 2019, they sent him to me from Blackwood (Stables) and (general manager and former Shug McGaughey assistant trainer) Robby Medina in Lexington and warned us he’s an aggressive horse who likes to train,” Cox said.
“It really takes a good rider to handle him. He’s forward, he’s tough and he’s eager and that makes him a very good work horse and you lead him over to the races with confidence because of that. The first race he had with us was an (allowance conditions) at Oaklawn and we thought ‘if this horse doesn’t show up and run, then mentally he’s done because you can’t train that well and not compete in a two-other-than allowance’.
“Then he showed up and ran big, but had a setback and the owners were talking about retiring him, but I told them we should just give him the time and see how he comes back and if he doesn’t then we could just retire him. It was that time of year, around March, when it wasn’t like he could go off to stud and get any business, so we brought him back and it worked out well, obviously.”
Showing marked improvement, the $87,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase of 2017 has gone from trying to rate to free-wheeling on the front end—something that has been encouraged by the Cox squad. He has now earned $3,088,995.
“I don’t know how anyone else trains but myself, but one thing we do with him and all our horses is we allow them to train on,” Cox explained. “We let them stretch their legs and do strong gallop-outs and keep them happy. Two weeks before the Pegasus, he put in a phenomenal piece of work that gave us the confidence that he would go (1800m), galloping out a mile in 1:39, which at the Fair Grounds (Racecourse) is a very good move. We put draw reins on him and let him gallop. He raced a lot as a 3-year-old, was lightly raced as a 4-year-old and now is totally sound as a 5-year-old and you can see that the way he moves. He floats over the ground right now.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, who is currently in flying form, has been aboard for his past three wins.
Cox continued: “I think Joel fits him extremely well. The first time he sat on him was his Keeneland allowance win and he said ‘man, this is a really nice horse’ which is funny because I had told him before ‘hey, you’re just going to have to hold on’.
“Then in the Breeders’ Cup, we almost didn’t get in the race, but his (speed) numbers stacked up and I actually think he went off as the favourite against a bunch of good horses. The thing with him is he was a G1 winner and won the allowance and Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, but the question was whether he would transfer his form to Gulfstream in the Pegasus, but he was able to get it done.”
Drawing post five in the Saudi Cup, Knicks Go will likely have a good deal of company on the front end from Charlatan
“He doesn’t have to have the lead, he’s just a really honest horse who likes to be forwardly placed. When the gate comes open, we’ll let the jock play the break and place him accordingly,” Cox said. “The post will be important, obviously. I watched the race last year several times and it’s hard to get a read on it because the horse on the lead (Mucho Gusto, fourth) was so far off the rail and then (Midnight Bisou, second) was actually glued to the rail, so it’s hard to know how the track plays. It seems like two of the better horses obviously have a lot of speed and will make this a very good race.”
Max Player (USA) – The 4-year-old Honor Code colt schooled in the starting gate on Thursday morning with regular exercise Carlos Rosas aboard. After being backed out, the Steve Asmussen trainee galloped once around the dirt oval.
Military Law (GB) – Group 2 winner Military Law had his first look at the track on Thursday morning, having shipped in Tuesday evening and hand-walked on Wednesday morning at the quarantine stables.
The son of Dubawi is in top form, exiting a smart victory in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 at Meydan, defeating multiple top-level winners and proving he could cut back in trip in the process.
“He’s quite versatile, but you always want the easiest run possible and down inside wouldn’t be bad,” said Maria Ritchie, assistant to trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri.
“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 – he rides him out in the mornings, as well.”
Fresu and the gingerly campaigned 6-year-old bay gelding will break from post 10 of 14 in the $20 million affair. From 12 starts, he has been first or second eight times. In his lone Group 1 try, he was second to Matterhorn in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 eleven months ago.
Fresu added: “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.”
Mishriff (IRE) and Global Giant (GB) – Arrived on track shortly after 7am with their stable-mate and Saudi Derby contender New Treasure.
Thady Gosden, assistant to his father John, said: “They went for a canter on the main track this morning, and fortunately everything was straightforward. They seem to be well in themselves, and I hope everything goes smoothly leading up to the race.”
Simsir (IRE) – The Bahrain International Trophy winner had an easy hack around the dirt course at just past 7am on Thursday. Trainer Fawzi Nass – partner in ownership group Victorious – observed on the apron.
This will be the first time the Aga Khan-bred son of Zoffany runs on dirt. Nass, appropriately, has made a habit of finding useful dirt runners with turf pedigrees including Salute the Soldier, a son of Sepoy who won last week’s Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan.
“I do see, looking at him, that he might be able to run on dirt, so I hope that I’m right one more time,” Nass said. “You never know until they really go on it. Obviously, I have seen that transition before.
“We train in Bahrain on the sand track and this is where I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen him move on it. I know this is a different surface from our sand track – it’s mixed with wood shavings etc so I hope I’m right in thinking he can run on the dirt.”
Sleepy Eyes Todd (USA) – As has now become a familiar sight, on Thursday morning the Miguel Angel Silva trained Sleepy Eyes Todd spent a good few minutes at the entrance of the dirt track, observing his surroundings before his rider José Sandoval nudged him into action.
“He just jogged one lap,” said his Mexico City-born trainer Miguel Angel Silva. “We just want to keep him fresh. All the exercise he needs to do is that. Right now it’s just about keeping him sound and happy and then go for the race. And he does look happy.”
Tacitus (USA) – The Bill Mott-trained striking grey horse made his way onto the dirt track on Thursday morning after spending the previous day doing his work on the training track in the quarantine area.
As is his want, the 5-year-old stood near where the 1800m chute meets the main track and took in the proceedings before galloping off under assistant trainer Neil Poznansky.
“He loves it. That’s his thing,” he said. “That’s his routine. Just let him do his thing and he’s happy.”
Having drawn post seven at the draw on Wednesday evening, Poznansky was pleased noting that with the long run to the turn that jockey John Velazquez will have “the whole backside to work out a trip”.
“The last time Johnny rode him was at Belmont (in the Grade 2 Suburban) and he won by 8¾ lengths,” he said.
For more information on The Saudi Cup including Entries, Past Performances and Where to Watch: www.thesaudicup.com.sa