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Mishriff upsets Charlatan to land Saudi Cup glory for Gosden and Egan

Mishriff powered home to wear down American ace Charlatan and land the world’s most valuable race, the $20million Saudi Cup in Riyadh.

The John Gosden-trained colt, owned by Prince Faisal, made his stamina tell over the nine furlongs after the two US heavyweights, Charlatan and Knicks Go, had gone head to head in the early stages.

David Egan was able to stay on their heels as the star pair turned for home.

Knicks Go dropped away, leaving Mishriff to gradually reduce Charlatan’s lead and get up in the closing stages. Great Scot finished third.

Gosden said from his Newmarket base: “It was a wonderful performance. He showed a lot of grit and courage, and he was able to go the pace of the American horses. It was great.”

Now proven on dirt as well as turf, having won the French Derby last year, Mishriff would appear to have all the world’s biggest races open to him.

But Gosden was keen not to be drawn on future plans, adding: “One race at a time.”

The champion trainer was also quick to pay tribute to his team behind the horse and his preparation.

He said: “What a brave horse, thank you to Prince Faisal and the whole team. It’s down to them and a brave horse, in what was a truly-run race and certainly he had to have a lot of courage never mind ability.

“His owner-breeder Prince Faisal always wanted to come back for the Saudi Cup (after finishing second in the Saudi Derby last year) and the horse had a perfect year bar getting stuck in a bottomless bog at Ascot (in the Champion Stakes), which was really specialist ground. Otherwise he has a superb record.

David Egan tries to take in Saudi Cup success
David Egan tries to take in Saudi Cup success (Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Mahmoud Khaled)

“The team here at Clarehaven have done a great job with him – it’s not easy to get a horse ready in the winter, with the snow and the ice.

“Any time you take on Bob Baffert with a horse of that class (Charlatan) you are pleased if you can get there, so full marks to my team.”

Reflecting on the race, Gosden said: “You do need to break well and get a decent position, David rode a positive race and in the end basically outstayed the American horses. It wasn’t a crazy pace, I was impressed the two American jockeys were containing their horses. You have a world-record miler there (Charlatan) and Brad Cox’s horse (Knicks Go) and they kept the rhythm right.

“There are very few horses who can switch surfaces like that, but I’ve always been told by the top American jockeys and Frankie Dettori that this is the best main dirt track in the world. I think that’s very much proven today – that a turf horse can actually switch to it and put in a big performance. This is a superb track.

“I think he will stay (further), in the end he nailed them because he could go the pace and then just see it out to the end – and that’s a hard-run mile and a furlong.

“I’ll see, we’ll all make decisions together as to how he is and what plans, and discuss it all with Prince Faisal. Take it a step at a time. After a flight like that and training in the winter, we’ll how the horse is for the next 10 days, two weeks when we get back before we start making any grand plans.”

Circumstances meant Egan missed out on Mishriff’s last three races last year, including his victory in the French Derby, where Dettori was in the saddle. However, as Prince Faisal’s retained rider he was back in the plate.

Egan, 21, said: “I can’t believe it. He’s an absolute champion. It’s unbelievable.

“It wasn’t meant to be (not being able to ride in French Derby). That’s racing. It was during the coronavirus pandemic as we all are now.

“I’d like to thank Saudi Cup for putting on such a great event in these tough times and making everything as Covid safe as we could be.

“I’m just delighted to get back on board Mishriff and win it for all the team.”

It’s only when you go past the line you realise what a big deal it is

He went on: “Last year he was a horse that jumped slow. He chased down the Japanese horse in the Saudi Derby and finished second. I always thought if he jumped on terms I would have nearly won last year.

“He has matured through the year and Mr Gosden had him primed for today. He’s been training well on the track. He seems to enjoy the track here. He’s very relaxed in the mornings.

“He jumped as well as he’s ever done. I squeezed him along for the first 50 yards and I was surprised how well he was going down the back straight. I was on Mike Smith’s (riding Charlatan) heels.

“The only worrying sign I got was when they started quickening, but once we got into the straight I knew I was going to mow them down. Thankfully the line came in time for us.

“Ever since he was second here last year I’m sure it was on Mr Gosden and Prince Faisal’s mind to come back here. With this race in Prince Faisal’s back garden, it was a no-brainer. He’s taken on some top-class horses from all round the world and he’s proved how good a horse he is and how much he has matured mentally and physically.

“With the amount of prize-money on offer it’s a huge deal, but going into the race I didn’t feel any pressure. It was just like going into any normal race.

“It’s only when you go past the line you realise what a big deal it is.”

Egan dedicated the triumph to his father John, also a jockey, who was on hand to witness the success.

“It’s so special dad being here,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be the rider or the person I am today. He’s done everything he can to hep me in my career, pushed me and trained me hard and this one’s for him.”

Space Blues proves out of this world

Space Blues made a winning return to action after a six-month break with a narrow victory in the stc Turf Sprint in Riyadh.

Winner of all four of his four starts in the summer, culminating in a first Group One success in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Charlie Appleby-trained five-year-old looks set for another lucrative campaign.

Krispen made the early running and was pressed by the former Richard Hannon-trained Urban Icon, who set sail for home in the straight.

Space Blues shrugged off his stablemate Glorious Journey, but had to knuckle down for William Buick to catch Urban Icon and last year’s winner, Dark Power.

He managed it in the shadow of the post to score a shade cosily in the end from Dark Power, ridden by Frankie Dettori, with Urban Icon just behind in third.

Appleby said: “Absolutely delighted with that. We knew he was a class horse coming into the race and he had a lovely draw. I could see (the ground) was a bit loose for him and our concern was that he might just spin a bit on it, but he’s come back on the bridle turning in like a class horse and put the race to bed at the right time.

“He travels for fun, watching the race there. I’ll be interested to see what William has to say because obviously Dubai World Cup night (Al Quoz Sprint) has to be taken into consideration.”

Buick said: “We had a great run through. He broke well and I didn’t want to be too close to the pace. The pace was perfect. It wasn’t too hot or too slow. I followed Frankie before the split in the straight. It was how I hoped the race would pan out. He was the best horse and I didn’t want to go for any heroics.

“You’d imagine this would set him for the Al Quoz.”

Gifts Of Gold sprang a 33-1 surprise when taking the spoils in the Red Sea Turf Handicap.

The lesser fancied of two Godolphin runners, Saeed bin Suroor’s six-year-old came with a surging run to assert a furlong and put the race to bed in the hands of Pat Cosgrave.

Gifts Of Gold had been well-beaten over mile at Meydan last month on his first run since since September, but bounced back from that over this one mile and seven furlongs.

Last year’s winner Call The Wind and Mildenberger set the early pace, until the complexion of the race changed at the top of the straight when plenty of horses were in contention.

Gifts Of Gold’s move proved decisive and the outsider took a handy advantage. Andrew Balding’s Spanish Mission looked dangerous, but had to settle for second place.

Godolphin’s first string, the Appleby-trained Secret Advisor, stayed on for third place.

Pink Kamehameha struck a blow for Japan when landing the Al Rajhi Bank Saudi Derby.

The three-year-old colt, trained by Hideyuki Mori and ridden by Keita Tosaki, proved too strong for opposition from Europe, America and the Middle East.

Soft Whisper, Godolphin’s UAE 1000 Guineas winner, was up with the pace from the start but had nothing left in the final furlong as Pink Kamehameha shot clear.

Steve Asmussen’s American raider Cowan finished strongly to take second place, just ahead of Dettori on the John Gosden-trained New Treasure.

Mori and Tosaki went agonisingly close to a double, only for Buick to deliver fellow Japanese raider Copano Kicking with precision and collar Matera Sky on the line in the Saudi Arabian Airlines Riyadh Dirt Sprint.

It was a repeat of 12 months ago for Matera Sky, when he was agonisingly beaten by New York Central after holding a clear lead.

Buick said: “It’s a big win. It’s the first time I’ve won on a Japanese horse outside of Japan.

“I’ve been to Japan many times and I’ve ridden a lot of winners there, but I never won one on elsewhere. I’m very grateful to the trainer and owner for giving me the ride on this horse.”

British challengers Oxted and Brad The Brief were unable to get in a real blow.

Shane Foley takes top spot in international challenge

Leading Irish jockey Shane Foley claimed top honours in the stc International Jockeys Challenge in Riyadh on Friday.

Riders from all over the world jetted in to Saudi Arabia for the second running of the competition, which acts as the perfect appetiser to Saturday’s high-profile card at the King Adbulaziz Racetrack, which features the $20million Saudi Cup.

Foley, who as stable jockey Jessica Harrington has enjoyed big-race success aboard the likes of Albigna, Cadillac and Lucky Vega in the last couple of years, landed two of the four races that form the challenge, first striking gold on Emblem Star.

The 3-1 favourite was drawn widest of all in the second leg of the event, but a smart start allowed Foley to navigate his mount across the track and take up a handy position before kicking clear from the home turn for a decisive victory.

Foley was soon on the mark again, with Motawariyah (9-2) similarly impressive in the following race – and after being confirmed as the winner of the competition, the Kilkenny native was keen to dedicate his success to nine-times champion jockey Pat Smullen, who died last year following a long battle with cancer.

Foley said: “It’s fantastic to be involved, and maybe I wouldn’t be here if Pat Smullen was here. He’d have probably got the invite as he was the go-to man and it’s days like today that make you think of Pat, but he’d be proud of me I think.

“When you’re competing in these races it’s a random draw, so you’ve a chance of getting on a fancied horse and I was lucky enough to draw two that had chances. I had a nice run around on both of them and they both won.

“I know they’re not Group races, but it’s on the big stage with a lot of people watching and obviously good for your career.

“It’s up there was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had for a while – it beats Dundalk, anyway!”

American great Mike Smith enjoyed a winner at the international jockeys challenge
American great Mike Smith enjoyed a winner at the international jockeys challenge (Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Douglas DeFelice)

The first leg went to 7-2 favourite Mortajeh, with American legend Mike Smith taking over in the saddle from John Velazquez, who was unable to travel to Saudi Arabia due to travel complications.

Hall of Fame rider Smith was crowned champion in the inaugural contest last year after landing two of the four races, but was later demoted to third after one of of his winners, Sun Hat, was disqualified due to a positive test for cobalt.

“I wasn’t even meant to be riding in the jockeys’ challenge – Johnny Velazquez couldn’t make it, so I filled in for him. I only heard about two hours beforehand,” said Smith, who this year finished third in the overall competition.

“It was great to start out with a winner and I’m happy with the result. This is a great event and the prize-money is amazing.”

Charlatan is favourite for the $20million Saudi Cup
Charlatan is favourite for the $20million Saudi Cup (Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Mathea Kelley)

Smith will ride favourite Charlatan in the Saudi Cup, and said of the Bob Baffert-trained colt: “Charlatan is an extremely talented horse and I’m really excited about him running. I think he’s going to really like this surface and hopefully he runs as well as I expect him to.”

Saudi Arabian rider Adel Alfouradi landed the fourth and final leg on 14-1 shot Zhabi Alhammad, which was enough to give him the runner-up spot.

William Buick and Hollie Doyle finished out of the places in each of the races.

Saudi Cup contender Mishriff in mighty form

Mishriff’s connections are delighted with last year’s French Derby hero as he goes for glory in the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup, in Riyadh.

The John Gosden-trained colt takes on two of America’s best dirt horses in the Brad Cox-trained Pegasus World Cup winner Knicks Go and Bob Baffert’s lightly-raced Grade One star Charlatan as well as other classy performers in Saturday’s $20 million showpiece.

One thing Mishriff has in his favour is that he has had experience of Riyadh’s dirt surface, having finished second in the Saudi Derby at this meeting 12 months ago.

Mishriff proved himself to be a leading three-year-old when winning his next three races, including the Prix du Jockey Club before running below par in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on his final start.

The Make Believe colt is reported to be in tip-top shape to start his four-year-old campaign.

“Everything’s good. I saw him this morning. David Egan rode him round the race track with John Gosden’s other horses Global Giant and New Treasure,” said Ted Voute, racing manager to owner Prince Faisal.

“He stretched his legs, and it went very well.

“Mishriff didn’t do anything strenuous. He changed his legs perfectly going into the turn, which was nice to see.

“He did everything he was asked. He’s bouncing and he looks really well. He looks as well as I’ve seen him.

“He really enjoys it and he’s posing for the cameras. He likes it out here and seems to thrive on travel.

“We’re just looking forward to the big day.”

Andrew Balding saddles Bangkok, who is trying a dirt surface for the first time.

The five-year-old had a confidence-boosting win at Lingfield this month.

“He’s had a relatively busy winter and seems in great form,” said the Kingsclere trainer.

“Obviously it’s a big ask against the best horses around, and it’s his first time on a surface like that, but he’s in great shape.

“He’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot of.”

Extra Elusive is Hollie Doyle's mount in the Saudi Cup
Extra Elusive is Hollie Doyle’s mount in the Saudi Cup (Tim Goode/PA)

Extra Elusive finished two places ahead of Mishriff when sixth in the Champion Stakes on his first try in Group One company.

The Roger Charlton-trained gelding had earned his chance at the top level with a pair of Group Three victories.

Extra Elusive will be ridden by Hollie Doyle in her capacity as retained jockey to owner Imad Alsagar. She is hoping for a good run if he can overcome a wide draw and act on the surface.

“I’ve got drawn 14 – which has its pros and cons,” she said.

“I’m not sure how he’ll handle the dirt and the kickback – but he ran well in the Champion Stakes, so hopefully he can run a nice race.”

Prince primed for latest globetrotting assignment in Riyadh

Prince Of Arran was reported to be “spot on” for the $2.5million Red Sea Turf Handicap after working on the track at Riyadh on Wednesday.

The eight-year-old, who has placed in the Melbourne Cup for the last three years, went six furlongs in the hands of Aled Beech ahead of Saturday’s engagement.

The jockey is looking after the horse while Fellowes remains at home in Newmarket due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“He started at the finishing line, cantered away for two furlongs and then picked it up for the final six,” said Fellowes.

“Aled Beech, who is in Saudi Arabia with the horse and who went to Australia with him, just let him roll home the last two furlongs, just a nice stretch to get a blow into him, and he was very happy with him.

“Aled said Prince Of Arran had a nice blow walking home but cleared pretty quickly, which has really put him about spot on now for his race on Saturday. He’s taken the trip well, as you’d expect from a horse with as much travelling experience as he’s got.

“He’s been eating and drinking well and moving good, and his temperature has been pretty much spot-on since he landed. So it looks like everything so far has gone smoothly, which is great.”

Oxted warmed up for his run in the $1.5m Saudi Arabian Airlines Riyadh Dirt Sprint by going six furlongs on the dirt course.

The July Cup winner was partnered by trainer Roger Teal’s son, Harry, and appeared to take well to the surface.

“We just let him have a nice stretch forward this morning,” said the trainer.

“I thought he looked really good and Harry said he felt great on the surface. He came round the bend nicely – we kicked up a gear on the bend and he handled that all right.

“He went six (furlongs) and Harry built it up as he went along. He quickened into the bend and let him freewheel around the turn and then for the last furlong let him have a good stride out. We were very happy with that.”