RIYADH: Scandinavian star Square De Luynes is on course for a shot at the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup at the Saudi Cup meeting next month.
Nicknamed “Frankel of the Fjords” by his fans, the three-time winner of the prestigious Stockholm Cup International is being prepared in Dubai for the $1.5 million contest over 2,100 m on Saturday, Feb. 26 by trainer Niels Petersen.
The seven-year-old could be joined by stablemates Kick On and King David at the Saudi Cup meeting, who are both aiming at the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap on Friday, Feb. 25 — a race restricted to horses trained in International Federation of Horseracing Authorities-registered Part II and III racing countries, like Norway.
There is no doubt Square De Luynes is the star of the trainer’s potential Saudi raiding party, and Petersen, a Dane based in Norway, said: “Square De Luynes is the best horse in Scandinavia — by the figures, by his performances, by everything. He’s the star of the show here — he’s such a popular horse.
“He’s got a high cruising speed. He can run over anything from 1,800 m to 2,400 m and he’s as good on soft ground as he is on fast. He can also go from the front or come from behind, it doesn’t matter. He beat the track record at Ovrevoll by a good margin over 1,800 m in August after 11 months off the track,” he said.
“I think the track in Saudi will suit him — left-handed, two bends, it should be spot on — and the 2,100 m distance should be ideal,” Petersen added. “That’s why we are targeting the Saudi Cup meeting. Looking at last year’s Neom Turf Cup, he should be good enough and he’s so well in himself.”
It had been Petersen’s plan to run Square De Luynes, among others, at last year’s Saudi Cup meeting, but the harsh Norwegian winter threw a spanner in the works.
This time he was able to ship a select team to Dubai. The horses have been in the UAE several weeks and all three of Petersen’s Saudi hopes will have prep-runs at Meydan.
“We’ve been lucky with the weather in Norway this year as we’ve been able to train them up until we left, so that’s a big plus. Normally we get a lot of rain in the autumn,” said Petersen. “When that happens and it freezes, you lose everything as the track turns to concrete.
“This year it just turned cold and they were able to get a lot of salt on the track,” he said. “They also put a lot of new sand down so we could work horses on it — you couldn’t race on it but you could do a good canter. It meant we could maintain the horses’ fitness which we’ve been unable to do in other years.
“That’s why we couldn’t go to Saudi last year. There was no point as it was a hard winter here and the horses lost too much of their condition. You don’t take chances with these horses — you need to do it right.”
Square De Luynes is owned by the Stall Power Girls — a syndicate made up of some of his owners’ wives, including Petersen’s own wife. Their distinctive pink colours will certainly stand out on Saudi Cup day.