Saudi Arabia prince to assess Epsom Derby credentials of Crossed Baton

Prince Khalid Abdullah could have a Derby winner on his hands in Crossed Baton. (Getty)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia prince to assess Epsom Derby credentials of Crossed Baton

  • Prince Khalid Adbullah's horse goes in the Dante Stakes on Thursday
  • No horse had ever lost the Dante Stakes and then prevailed at Epsom

Only one of Prince Khalid Adbullah’s three Derby winners at Epsom carried entirely obvious credentials going in to the famous race and connections of Crossed Baton are understandably looking to test what they have got in Thursday’s Dante Stakes at York.
Commander in Chief turned up to Epsom in 1993 unbeaten, whereas Quest For Fame three years earlier had been turned over in a three-runner Derby trial at Chester before his signature career triumph.
In 2010 Workforce had won only a maiden before he pitched up to York for the Dante, and his inexperience was there for all to see as he pulled the bit through his mouth and wandered around the track to lose what is considered the Derby trial nonpareil.
No horse had ever lost the Dante Stakes and then prevailed at Epsom, but Workforce developed rapidly on that steep learning curve and became the first horse in more than 50 years of Dante history to go on to score at Epsom. He did it in record time, too.
What the Saudi Prince has got on his hands with Crossed Baton, a horse whom he bred through his Juddmonte Farms operation, is hard to fathom after he showed the required ability, and more importantly the agility for a big horse, to win Epsom’s Derby trial three weeks ago. That, historically, has not been a strong race, but was upgraded to Listed status at the end of last season following the exploits of Cracksman, now rated the best horse in Europe, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed of Dubai’s tough but ill-fated Permian.
“Crossed Baton worked pleasingly on Friday morning,” Lord Grimthorpe, the owner’s racing manager said. “I felt it was a very solid performance at Epsom. It’s always difficult to make all there and he did that. The form is at least appreciable. With the Derby all things become engrossing and he has come through an Epsom trial, progressed pretty nicely physically and in his work he is going the right way. So he deserves a shot at the Dante.
“I think that will give us a pretty good idea. Then you have to look at what’s going (to Epsom) and assess your chances as realistically as possible. Obviously if there’s a chance he could be a serious Derby contender we want to give him that chance.”
That is hardly a ringing endorsement of his chances in the most important race in the world in two weeks, but this is trial season and dreams need to be turned in to reality. The son of top-class miler Dansili does not obviously have the breeding to indicate that he will be the strongest stayer over another two furlongs at Epsom on the first Saturday in June and today’s test could well see him win a battle along the way but ultimately lose the war.
The mount of Frankie Dettori faces eight rivals, with Roaring Lion, who beat Crossed Baton on their racecourse debuts at Newmarket in August, appearing the most likely winner.
Crossed Baton’s stablemate at Gosden’s Newmarket base is not an entirely straightforward ride for Oisin Muprhy, however, but was good enough to finish on the heels of Derby favorite Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas 12 days ago and again in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at the end of last season.
He is not the only danger. The Dubai Royal family fire a twin-pronged attack at the race with Charlie Appleby’s unbeaten Nordic Lights set to represent Godolphin, and Mildenberger, who showed he was worth a dice roll in the more exulted company for owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince Of Dubai, when a solid winner of a Listed race at Newmarket last month.
Aidan O’Brien is never short of a potential Derby runner and send over James Cook, who was fourth to Crossed Baton at Epsom, and Zabriskie from Ireland, while Wells Farhh Go, a winner at the track last season, and White Mocha complete the field.


Ali Al-Habsi confident of prolonged Al-Hilal success under Jorge Jesus after Super Cup win

Updated 19 August 2018
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Ali Al-Habsi confident of prolonged Al-Hilal success under Jorge Jesus after Super Cup win

  • Eduardo had been absent since December after suffering the dreaded cruciate knee ligament injury
  • He made his competitive comeback against Al-Shabab on Sunday but announced his full return to form and fitness against Al-Ittihad in London

LONDON: Ali Al-Hasbi was thrilled Carlos Eduardo emerged as the star of the Saudi Super Cup final, believing his goal was a fitting reward for the torment he went through during his spell out injured.
Eduardo had been absent since December after suffering the dreaded cruciate knee ligament injury in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final with Urawa Reds.
He had a complex operation in Brazil and has spent this year building up the strength in his knee with some long and lonely hours in the gym.
He made his competitive comeback against Al-Shabab on Sunday but announced his full return to form and fitness against Al-Ittihad in London on Saturday night, scoring the first in a 2-1 win over the Tigers.
The nature of his celebration – a double knee slide to the corner – demonstrated the confidence he now has in the joint and the relief that his injury hell is over.
“It’s fantastic for him,” Al-Habsi, the Omani goalkeeper, told Arab News as he did a lap of honor with the trophy around the pitch.
“He has been out for seven months and to come back, play like that, score a goal is fantastic. It’s unbelievable as it was a bad injury and he had to work really hard to recover.”
Gelmin Rivas got the second goal to ensure Jorge Jesus launched his reign as coach by winning the Saudi Super Cup, making a statement in the process that Al-Hilal will again be the team to beat this season.
“It’s fantastic to get a start like this,” said Al-Habsi. “It’s a brilliant to win a derby game and it’s always tough against them. We have made the fans very happy and we can now push for the start of the season. I believe we can win a lot of trophies if we can push hard.”
Jesus came in to replace Ramon Diaz who, ironically, was in charge of Al-Ittihad on Saturday night. Jesus won everything in Portugal and he is expected to deliver similar success at Al-Hilal.
“He’s been fantastic since he has come in,” said Al-Habsi. “We did some good work with him in Austria, he has got some good ideas and I think we are going to do well under him. It’s the perfect start that we won this trophy under him.”
Al-Habsi turns 37 in December and this is his 20th season as a professional, but he is showing no signs of aging and looks set to start the season as No. 1 ahead of Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
“I still feel very good,” he said. “I feel very fit and I am very pleased. I’m really enjoying life at Al-Hilal. It’s a massive club.”
The game in Loftus Road, in front of more than 16,000 boisterous fans, was quite the introduction to football in Saudi Arabia for Aleksandar Pesic. The Serbian arrived at Al-Ittihad this summer from Red Star Belgrade and he made a difference after coming on as a half-time substitute.
“The first half we didn’t play very well but we were more attacking in the second half after the coach changed things,” he told Arab News. “But we conceded two goals because of mistakes. But this is football. It was a very strong game.”
Al-Ittihad finished ninth last season but they should be aiming much higher than that this season on the evidence of things against Al-Hilal.
“If we play like this in the league, I think we will have a good chance for the championship,” Pesic said. “Maybe we win, maybe we lose but we will always give 100 percent, then I believe we can do good things. We will try to be champions.”
It will be a tough ask to finish ahead of Al-Hilal, though. They won the league last season and look even stronger following the additions of Alberto Botia, Andre Carrillo and Omar Abdulrahman.
“It’s a very good team, a very compact team with a good coach and good players,” said Pesic. “They are very tough to play against and I’m sure they will have a strong season.”