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.


Saudi Arabia's young athletes return from Youth Olympics with hope and expectation

Updated 56 min 58 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia's young athletes return from Youth Olympics with hope and expectation

  • Saudi young guns hopeful for future with glory at Tokyo and Paris Olympics on their minds.
  • Yousif Jalaiden, the Saudi delegation’s chef de mission, tells young stars 'the hard yards start now.'

BUENOS AIRES: With heavier hand-luggage and loftier dreams, the Saudi athletes who competed at this month’s Youth Olympic Games will arrive back in Riyadh on Saturday, their medals suggesting reaching Tokyo 2020 is a target as attainable as it is alluring.
The Kingdom brought nine athletes to Argentina and left with a historic gold in karate and two bronze, one each in weightlifting and the 400m hurdles. Mohammed Al-Assiri’s momentous triumph in the final of the Men’s Kumite -61kg on Wednesday night represented the county’s first Olympic gold at any level. It also ensured Buenos Aires will be remembered as Saudi Arabia’s greatest medal haul, eclipsing the one bronze and one silver secured at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. 
Al-Assiri, 16, was awarded SR1 million riyals by Turki Al-Sheikh, head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, for his achievement. 
“Of course, we are delighted. We came here hopeful and we leave with our best ever performance,” said Yousif Jalaiden, the Saudi delegation’s chef de mission, before boarding the flight to Riyadh. “We expected two medals but hoped for three, although we did not know which colors they would be. To get the three and a gold, that’s why we are so happy. Thanks to God, it’s been a great success.”
The two-week campaign was somewhat of a slow-burner; the first seven days passing without as much as a glimpse of a medal for the delegation marked “KSA.” Swimming, taekwondo and fencing all failed to produce tangible reward, although the delegation’s youngest athlete, fencer Ali Saeed Al-Bahrani, took much consolation from the experience
“We will benefit a lot from this participation,” said the 15-year-old, who had been invited to contest the Men’s Sabre Individual and progressed through his group before being defeated in the last-16. “God-willing, this here will help us enjoy better success in the future.”
The midway point of the games marked a change in fortune — and provided genuine reasons for positivity ahead of the Olympic Games proper, which takes place in less than two years. Ali Yousef Al-Othman had finished third at the Asian Championships in April, but a dedicated training program and the assistance of Egyptian coach Khaled Qur’any helped him emulate that feat on the world stage. 
Al-Othman was understandably confident after accepting his bronze medal, telling Arab News that Tokyo is now at the forefront of his mind. “My dream was to win a medal at the Youth Olympics,” he said. “Now that dream has changed and I will work harder than ever to make Tokyo 2020 a reality.”
Qur’any, who has coached at the past two Olympics, however, was keen to keep his athlete’s feet on the ground, a feat possibly made trickier by the awarding of SR200,000.
“He is only 16, so I think Tokyo will come too soon for him,” Qur’any said. “Paris in 2024 is different — we would hope to be there. Ali has the potential, but there is a lot of work to be done before we can think of that.”
On the athletics track, Raghad Bu Arish won her heat in the 100m but her time was some distance off the pace. Mohammed Al-Muawi, meanwhile, benefited from the disqualification of South Africa’s Lindukhule Gora in the Men’s 400m hurdles to leap up a place and on to the podium. It was his first competitive event and the culmination of more than five months of training in California with American former World Championships silver medallist Ryan Wilson.  
“This medal is an amazing achievement for me,” said Al-Muawi, who was also awarded SR200,000. “I need to thank my coach. I hope to keep working with him. He always gives me so much support. Next year I have the Asian Championships and some Arab races, but of course I am dreaming about Tokyo. I want to challenge the best in the world, guys like Karsten Warholm from Norway and Abderrahman Samba.” 
The Asian Athletics Championships are scheduled to take place in Qatar next April, before the IAAF World Championships five months later. Jalaiden confirmed Saudi Arabia intends to send a delegation, adding he hopes the results in Buenos Aires can help inspire more victories at this level.
“We hope that we can take this success and build upon it ahead of Tokyo,” said Jalaiden. “And also use the experience here to help the next generation of Saudi athletes who will compete at the 2022 Youth Olympics (in Senegal). The hard work starts all over 
again now.”