The fourth running of the US$20,000,000 Saudi Cup went the way of Japan for the first time courtesy of the Yoshito Yahagi-trained Panthalassa (JPN) as he saw off all challengers for a historic wire-to-wire victory.
It was an evening for the powerful racing nation to rejoice, with Panthalassa’s all the way success under veteran jockey Yutaka Yoshida meaning that Bob Baffert’s American raider Country Grammer (USA) had to once again settle for the runner-up place in Riyadh.
In four renewals, victory in The Saudi Cup has gone to four different nations with the Japanese winner becoming the latest to win the world’s most valuable race, now proving his capability on both dirt and turf.
Yahagi was among the winning trainers last year when Japanese-trained runners claimed four races on the card and the strength of horse racing in the country was confirmed once again on Saturday with three more in front of an appreciative crowd at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
For the globally popular trainer Yahagi, it was a second winner of the evening, following up from Bathrat Leon’s win in the 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc. It was also an unforgettable night for owners Hiroo Race Co Ltd, who owned both Yahagi’s winners.
Saudi Cup Replay
Momentarily in the latter stages it appeared that Japanese runners would fill the first three places, but Country Grammer finished with a flourish down the outside to claim second, half a length adrift, from Cafe Pharoah (JPN) in third with Geoglyph (JPN) and Crown Pride (JPN), both also trained in Japan, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Last year’s winner Emblem Road (USA) was sixth and the best of the four locally-trained runners. The winning time was 1:50.80.
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Elite Power Wins Riyadh Dirt Sprint
Elite Power (USA) ran out a dominant winner of the G3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Sports Boulevard to give star jockey Frankie Dettori the victory he craved at The Saudi Cup meeting.
The quality the Juddmonte-owned, Bill Mott-trained five-year-old had displayed when lifting the Breeders’ Cup Sprint late last year was manifest again as he put away a strong field by three-and-a-quarter lengths from another American runner Gunite (USA).
The Japanese challenger Remake (JPN) finished two lengths further back in third. Last year’s champion Dancing Prince (JPN) finished fifth. The winning time was 1:11.01.
As a contest for first place, this race was settled with 200m remaining as Dettori unleashed a lethal turn of foot from Elite Power, who had been settled in midfield through the initial stages.
Dettori had just been denied in a thrilling climax to the previous race, the Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group, on another American runner, Havnameltdown, but he could cruise to victory at his leisure on this occasion. It is fair to say that the five-year-old son of Curlin was operating a different level far superior to his rivals.
Commissioner King Takes Saudi Cup
Fans in Riyadh were treated to an absolute thriller in the G3 Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group, as locally-trained Commissioner King (USA) wore down American raider Havnameltdown (USA) in the final strides.
There is also a lucrative boxing match in the Saudi Arabian city this week and the 1600m event developed into an equine prize fight, with Frankie Dettori and Havnameltdown and Luis Morales and Commissioner King taking it right to the final bell.
It was Dettori who bounced out of the gates first aboard Bob Baffert’s colt, already a multiple Graded winner back in the States, but whose stamina would be tested to the limit as he was yet to race beyond 1400m.
Every move the legendary Italian made was shadowed by Morales and the Sabah Alshammri-trained Commissioner King, a lightly-raced son of Commissioner who was acquired from America but was resold at the JCSA Sale in Saudi Arabia and campaigned domestically.
He had warmed up for this $1.5 million prize with a stylish win over the same course and distance in December.
They were the only two to ever get into the race, with Commissioner King only edging past close home to gain the day by a head in a time of 1:38.82, while Japanese runner Derma Sotogake (JPN) came through for third, a length and three-quarters adrift, with Uruguayan star Es-Unico (BRZ) in a commendable fourth.