There is $20 million up for grabs with a much anticipated showdown between Knicks Go and Charlatan in the Saudi Cup on Saturday at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
The Bob Baffert trained Charlatan is the 7-5 morning line favorite and comes into the world’s richest horse race undefeated in four starts. He came back off a 7 ½ month layoff to win the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.
Knicks Go (5-2) has won four in a row, each in gate to wire fashion for trainer Brad Cox. The five-year-old won the Pegasus World Cup (G1) handily at Gulfstream Park in his last start.
“He doesn’t have to have the lead, he’s just a really honest horse who likes to be forwardly placed. When the gate comes open, we’ll let the jock play the break and place him accordingly,” Cox said.
A field of 15 will line up to go a one turn 1 1/8 miles. There are three other U.S. based making the trip—Tacitus, (15-1), Max Player (20-1) and Sleepy Eyes Todd (20-1).
The U.S. team fared well last year. Maximum Security won the race and U.S. based runners checked in second, fourth and fifth.
2020 Saudi Cup Replay
Japan will be represented by Chuwa Wizard (15-1), who won the Champions Cup (G1) at Chukyo in his last outing, his 10th win in 18 career starts.
“He’s a very talented horse,” said trainer Ryuji Okubo. “From the tactics we had in the JBC Classic, I decided to change the strategy again in the race. I wanted to make the most of what he had, so I told the jockey (Keita Tosaki) to settle him further back, targeting Chrysoberyl from behind.”
Trainer John Gosden will send out Mishriff (6-1) and Global Giant (30-1). Mishriff is a Group 1 winner on turf and ran second here last year in the Saudi Derby Cup in his lone start on dirt.
The Saudi Cup will be televised on FS1 from noon to 1:00 ET. The Saudi Cup undercard will air live from 8:30 a.m. to noon ET on FS2 and features six stakes races including the $1 million Turf Sprint, $2.5 million Turf Handicap, $1 million Local Handicap, $2 million Arabian Classic, $1.5 million Saudi Derby, and the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint.
The $20 million Saudi Cup Post time 12:40 ET
8 Knicks Go 5-2
9 Max Player 20-1
11 Mishriff 6-1
3 Charlatan 7-5
The Cox trainee has been dominant over his last four races, winning by a combined 24 lengths. The colt ran them off their feet in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) two back which was a two-turn mile. He stretched out to nine furlongs last out and wired the field in the Pegasus World Cup (G1). He won by 2 ¾ lengths but had something left in the tank, the margin could have been larger. Many think the two favorites are going to hook up early, but I think this guy is quick and Rosario may be able to open up as he seems more likely to be aggressive than Mike Smith here. The colt has more seasoning than his main rival who is coming off a win at seven furlongs and has just one start going long. Cox thinks this guy may be better going two turns but a one turn nine furlong distance looks as if it should suit him well.
The best shot this guy has is if the two favorites do indeed hook up early. This colt makes his first start since a fifth in the Preakness (G1) where he did not get the best of trips or rides. The colt was not away cleanly, forced out and bumping a foe, was next to last early, started to make a move when a tiring foe backed up on him, shifted outward and finished up with some interest. The runner up Authentic came out of the race to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and the third-place finisher Jesus’ tram returned to win the Claiming Crown Jewel and then ran a good second in the Pegasus World Cup. He has been working steadily at Fair Grounds for Asmussen. Things could set up for him here and he is going to be a decent price. He is 20-1 on the morning line but around 14-1 in early betting overseas. I like the jock switch here to Rispoli. (EDIT: Rispoli cannot make the trip, Mickael Barzalona is now riding).
This colt is a Group 1 winner on turf, taking the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly last July. He ran second in last year’s Saudi Derby Cup on dirt, beaten 2 ¼ lengths by Full Flat. He then reeled off three wins in a row before coming up short in the QIPCO Champion Stakes (G1) where he caught soft footing. He is in good hands with trainer John Gosden and the colt has been sitting between 6-1 and 7-1 in early wagering. The colt could end up drifting higher.
The Baffert trainee is perfect in four starts. He earned a career top speed fig winning the seven furlong Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. The runner up Express Train came back to win the San Pasqual (G2) in his next start on Jan. 30 with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He has sprinter speed but the question is whether jockey Mike Smith uses it early. His win at nine furlongs came in the Arkansas Derby (G1) last May where he won by six lengths but was later disqualified for a drug positive. His price is going to be on the short side and to get paid today we need to beat at least one of the two favorites.
WIN: Knicks Go to win at 5-2 or better.
EXACTA: 8,9 / 8,9,11 and 8 / 3,9,11,14