Over 140 horses – among them American star Maximum Security – have been entered for the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup on February 29.
Ante-post favourite for what will be the richest race ever staged, the Jason Servis-trained Maximum Security hit the headlines when first past the post in last year’s Kentucky Derby, only to be demoted – the first winner of the ‘Run for the Roses’ ever to be disqualified.
Back in Grade One-winning action since and a nominee for American Horse of the Year, the Gary and Mary West-owned colt is one of the headline acts in the $20 million showpiece.
Multiple Grade One-winner Midnight Bisou is another from the States with big claims, with similar comments applying to Bob Baffert’s Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up McKinzie.
The nine-furlong contest on dirt has attracted entries from 16 countries and more than 60 trainers. British interest includes John Gosden’s Dubai Warrior and Global Giant, as well as Andrew Balding’s Bangkok and Sir Michael Stoute’s Regal Reality.
The feature race on turf is the Neom Turf Cup over an extended 10 furlongs, where the likes of Aspetar (Roger Charlton), Desert Encounter (David Simcock), Benbatl (Saeed bin Suroor) and Japanese ace Deirdre are engaged – with the latter pair also in the Saudi Cup.
Aidan O’Brien has entered both Magic Wand and Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck.
Tom Dascombe has given Ayr Gold Cup winner Angel Alexander the option of running in both the dirt and turf sprints, and there is a very strong potential British and Irish challenge in the Red Sea Turf Handicap.
Kew Gardens, Cross Counter, Prince Of Arran, King’s Advice, Mildenberger and Verdana Blue are just some of those engaged.
While each race has a huge entry, the maximum field for all is only 14 and the task of whittling them down rests with former British Horseracing Authority senior handicapper Phil Smith.
Tom Ryan, director of strategy and international racing for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “The response to the Saudi Cup from the international racing community has been fantastic.
“We couldn’t be happier with the entries that we’ve received and we are now fully focused on putting on a spectacular first Saudi Cup race day to live up to the calibre of these entries.”