RIYADH: The 2022 Saudi Cup meeting has attracted over 700 entries from 22 different countries, including 71 international Group 1 winners, all vying to claim some of the $35.1 million prize money across the two-day meeting on Feb. 25-26.
Reigning Saudi Cup champion Mishriff (Ireland) has already achieved impressive career earnings of $15 million, a figure that currently leaves him ninth in the list of all-time highest-earning thoroughbreds.
If he were to record a historic second successive triumph in the third running of the Saudi Cup (1,800m), which will be run as a Group 1 for the first time, he would become the highest-earning racehorse of all time, eclipsing Australian "wonder mare" Winx.
Tom Ryan, director of strategy and international racing at the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “We couldn’t be happier with the entries for the 2022 Saudi Cup meeting. Not only do we have a huge number, over 300 more than last year, but the quality is exceptional with 71 individual Group 1 winners, including last year’s Saudi Cup champion Mishriff."
He added: “We are also absolutely delighted to see that more countries have made entries, with 22 in total compared with 19 in 2021. That goes to show how quickly the Saudi Cup meeting has had an impact globally and become a key target for owners and trainers.
“It was such a proud moment for everyone at the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia when the Saudi Cup was promoted to a Group 1, as well as the supporting races achieving Group 3 status and the Obaiya Classic being upgraded from a Listed content to a Group 2. The support we have received from horsemen and women all over the world has been incredible and we look forward to welcoming everyone to Riyadh next month.”
Japan, a country that won two races on last year’s Saudi Cup card, is responsible for over 90 entries at the meeting and is set to be represented in the Saudi Cup by T O Keynes, most recently seen landing the Champions Cup, a qualifying race for the Saudi Cup. Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Marche Lorraine (Japan) is another who could take her place in the $20 million contest.
There is a strong US contingent with over 150 entries, including a number of high-profile contenders. Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and 2021 Saudi Cup fourth Knicks Go has been given an entry, along with Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile champion Life Is Good. Other possible runners from the US include Hot Rod Charlie, Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon.
South American superstar Aero Trem (Brazil), currently in Dubai, has been entered, while there are some interesting European contenders, including Group 1 winners Sealiway (France), Skaletti (France) and Pyledriver (Britain).
Five Group 3 races and Group 2 Obaiya Arabian Classic on Saudi Cup undercard
The $2.5 million Group 3 Red Sea Turf Handicap (3,000m) has attracted entries from 15 different countries. Japan Cup runner-up Authority and Deep Bond could represent Japan, while Sisfahan (France), Sonnyboyliston (Ireland), Princess Zoe (Germany) and Nayef Road (Ireland) make up a deep European contingent.
Hollie Doyle landed the 2,100m Group 3 Neom Turf Cup ($1.5 million up from $1 million in 2021), on True Self last year and there are some strong global entries, including Lord North (Ireland, Pyledriver (Britain), Grand Glory (Britain), Square De Luynes (France) and the evergreen Lord Glitters (France) from Europe. Japan have Authority, Sanrei Pocket and So Valiant entered, while Col. Liam could run for the US.
The Japanese have a strong entry in the Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint ($1.5 million up from $1 million in 2021), where Grenadier Guards is guaranteed a spot after winning the Hanshin Cup. He could meet Ho O Amazon and Songline, with Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Lt. Dan an interesting US entry.
In the $1.5 million Group 3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint (1,200m), the US look to hold a strong hand with Group 1 winners Dr. Schivel and Kimari, as well as the promising Cezanne. The nine-year-old Secret Ambition (Britain) could line up, while last year’s winner Copano Kicking (US) is entered to defend his crown for Japan.
A strong Latin American entry includes both Irwin (Argentina) and Prelude Rye (Argentina) in the 1600m G3 Saudi Derby ($1.5 million).
Smile Happy, Newgrange, MacKinnon and Rockefeller are possible runners from the US, and in the $2 million G2 Obaiya Arabian Classic, last year’s one-two, the locally trained stablemates Mubasher Alkhalediah (KSA) and Mutwakel Alkhalediah (KSA) are set to take each other on again.
International Jockeys Challenge, Saudi International Handicap and Al Mneefah on Friday, Feb. 25
The highlight on the opening day of the meeting, Friday, Feb. 25, is the stc International Jockeys Challenge, where seven female and seven male jockeys from around the world compete against each other. Last year’s winner Shane Foley from Ireland is back to defend his crown, and other jockeys confirmed at this stage are the UK’s Hayley Turner and Glen Boss from Australia.
Friday sees the second running of the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap, a race designed for horses trained in IFHA Part II or Part III countries, with horses entered from 10 countries: Bahrain, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.
A new addition to the Friday card is the Listed Al Mneefah Cup, an international race for purebred Arabians over 2,100m on turf with prize money of $1 million.