Anytime you get Grade 1 type horses to race over a track they are not familiar with, in a land they are unfamiliar with, it makes for an interesting horserace. Interesting races often give us value-laden betting opportunities. If that is the case with The Saudi Cup, this year remains to be seen. After all, you have two very strong co-favorites in Knicks Go and Charlatan. It doesn’t exactly hurt their chances in that they are trained by Brad Cox and Bob Baffert, respectively.
It may prove to be futile to try and get past these two on the win end, but this is a horserace in the desert at a one turn mile and an eighth, and both horses will race without Lasix, something they are used to racing with. I think there are at least a few others worth considering. If not for the win, then perhaps to round out an exacta or make a triple.
When it comes to the big two, I would give the edge to Charlatan. Bob Baffert prepares his horses for and takes down these big world stage events better than anyone. He comes in with a fast, improving, lightly-raced high-quality colt. The one turn looks ideal for him, and Mike Smith is as good as it gets in these big dances. He can go, or he can sit and go after front running Knicks Go when the time is right. Mike will know that.
On the other hand, “new horse” Knicks Go really knows one way to do it and that is on the front end. He has gotten some very favorable pace scenarios and hooked some soft fields since he made his new horse status, and that may not happen in the desert with Charlatan amongst others to deal with. If nothing else, it should be fun to watch right from the gate.
Joel Rosario, who rides Knicks Go, and Mike Smith are both smart, and they won’t want to get into any type of suicidal speed duel, but can they keep their best shot at winning and avoid it? If these two go at it from the gate, in the desert, without Lasix, things can get interesting late.
Mishriff was a very highly rated three-year-old overseas last year. That was not by chance. This Group 1 winner is loaded with talent, and if Bob Baffert has a rival in these big dances, I’d say John Gosden, who trains Mishriff fits the bill. This colt has the benefit of having run over this track last year when he finished second in the Saudi Derby. I do not think for a second it is a coincidence he starts his four-year-old campaign here. He likes to sit close but not rush, and that may have him in the catbird seat down the backstretch.
Sure, Sleepy Eyes Todd lost to Knicks Go in The Pegasus last out, but that was a two-turn mile and an eighth at Gulfstream where Knicks Go had things his own way. This horse probably likes one turn better and is as honest as they come. He is battle-tested and classy enough to make noise here with the right trip and set-up, which he figures to get. He has won half of his 16 races and will be a big price. There are a lot of worse stabs or horses to use in exotics than Sleepy Eyes Todd.
Irish bred Bangkok is another who is interesting. He is bred to the gills but with a heavy lean to the grass where he has done most of his running. He has handled synthetic, however, and truly good horses often show they can run on anything. He is certainly classy enough, is used to this caliber of competition, albeit on grass, and Ryan Moore rides at a 30-1 morning line. I would be more enthused at a mile and a quarter or at two-turns, but I have to think he is capable if things went right. I have seen worse 30, 40, or 50-1 shots than Bangkok.
Dare I say it, does Tacitus finally do what many have thought he can for a while? It would be fitting for the Juddmonte homebred to win this following the passing of the stable’s founder and leader, and true sportsman, Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of none other than Saudi Arabia. I am not as hard on Tacitus as most other people are. He had a nightmare trip in the Kentucky Derby or could have won it. John Velazquez rode him twice, once to a smart win. Johnny knows him and how to win the big ones. He is no toss in here in my book. He would be the storybook winner.
Whether betting a race in the desert or not, any fan of the sport will want to watch this one. It is early in the year, and we get a glimpse at some horses we should be seeing a lot more of, and possibly in some big races.
Whether you want to take a shot on a big price, or put one or two of them behind one of the big two, I think there are more than a few ways to make this one quite interesting and possibly quite profitable.
As always enjoy the races….