RIYADH: Henk Grewe’s 2021 German Derby winner Sisfahan is set to embark on a trip to Saudi Arabia in the New Year, with the four-year-old being targeted for the Saudi Cup Group 3 Red Sea Turf Cup Handicap on Feb. 25.
Sisfahan, who runs in the colors of Darius Racing and Michael Motschmann, had been due to line up in the 3,000-meter contest last year, but was forced to miss the race after suffering an injury in training.
Holger Faust, racing manager of Darius Racing, said: “It was the plan to run him there last year, but he got injured, so it was disappointing to miss the race.
“We’ve been thinking about it all year and I’m glad he’s come back at the right time this year, so he’s ready for the race.”
After nearly a year off the track, the four-year-old returned in the G1 Preis von Europa over 2,400 meters in September, and built upon that to win the G2 Gran Premio Jockey Club, over the same distance, at San Siro a month later.
“He had a fracture and an operation in January and for a horse to come back in September is quite early,” Faust said.
“We didn’t really have a race for him, but we decided to bring him back in a Group 1 because it was on his home track. He finished last in that race, but we were all fine with that and with his performance.
“We were quite confident for the race in Italy. He won that race and it was brilliant to see him coming back like this.”
Faust is optimistic that his first attempt at 3,000 meters will suit the son of Isfahan. “To me he is a classical 2,400-meter horse, but I don’t think he minds further. When you see him winning his races, he wins with a lot of stamina.
“Also, when jockeys ride him, they say he’s hard to stop after his races, so he’s got this attitude and he looks like a real stayer.”
Faust also explained that the decision to race at the Saudi Cup meeting was made as its placement in the racing calendar fits Sisfahan’s schedule.
“The races in the spring in Germany, they are not really attractive for a Group 1 winner. Even though the Red Sea Turf is a Group 3 race, it has a high value and it makes sense to run a Group 1 horse in those kind of races,” he said.
“When you have a horse of that class, the horse gives everything — it doesn’t matter if he runs for EUR50,000 or for EUR2 million — the horse gives his best, so we thought it would be better to run in this race.
“With German races not being very attractive in spring, we thought this way we can give him a pause and then bring him back to European races when the Grand Prix season starts, which in Germany is at the end of July.
“The Saudi Cup meeting perfectly suits him now, being at the end of February, and if he performs in Saudi Arabia, it’s possible for him to run on the big day in Dubai as well. Then if everything works out and the horse is sound, he gets a nice break before we see him again.”
No runs are planned before February, with the Red Sea Turf expected to be Sisfahan’s next race.
“He had a tough program this autumn — he returned eight months after his injury and ran three races in six weeks. There’s not really a race for him in December or January, so why look for a race that’s not really there?”
Sisfahan is already well travelled, having run at the Breeders’ Cup in Del Mar in 2021, and Faust does not expect him to be fazed by a trip to Riyadh. “He’s completely uncomplicated. He’s a very calm horse, he travels well. He has a lovely character. Even when he got injured and had to stay a while in his box, there was never a problem.”
English jockey Jack Mitchell, who has been in the saddle for each of Sisfahan’s last three runs, is currently expected to maintain the partnership on Saudi Cup night.
“I think Jack should stay on board, there’s no reason to change anything. He gets on well with the horse,” Faust said.
Sisfahan is set to become the first German-trained runner in the Red Sea Turf Cup Handicap, which carries a prize fund of $2.5 million and will be run on the same card as the world’s most valuable race, the $20 million Saudi Cup.