Between Posts 4 and 9 sit the five United States horses running in Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup. Most spectators’ eyes will likely gravitate to Posts 5 and 9, where Knicks Go and Charlatan start, respectively.
Post positions were drawn Wednesday for the Saudi Cup. There are 14 horses representing map points from Japan to Dubai, and from France to England. Knicks Go and Charlatan are the stars of the show, while the other 12 horses in the second edition of this 1-1/8-mile race serve as the supporting cast.
That cast includes three other American horses who seem to be along for a very lucrative ride. Max Player drew Post 4, one spot inside Pegasus World Cup winner Knicks Go. Tacitus, who finished fifth here last year and who is the lone returning runner, starts from Post 7. To his immediate right in Post 8 comes Sleepy Eyes Todd.
Then, comes Grade 1 Malibu Stakes winner Charlatan with Mike Smith in the irons. Smith piloted Midnight Bisou to a great runner-up finish in last year’s inaugural edition. He and Joel Rosario, four posts to his left on Knicks Go, provide the race’s speed, along with the chief storyline. Both of these horses have only one gear – fifth.
Charlatan Knows Where Knicks Go is Going
“That’s just about perfect for him,” said Jimmy Barnes, Bob Baffert’s chief lieutenant, about Charlatan’s Post 9 spot. Barnes, who’s serving as Baffert’s boots on the ground in Saudi Arabia, said that on the Saudi Cup Twitter account.
Group 1 Saudi Cup/King Abdulaziz Race Course
- Chuwa Wizard
- Great Scot
- Max Player
- Knicks Go
- Global Giant
- Sleepy Eyes Todd
- Military Law
- Extra Elusive
Charlatan is in a good spot to keep an eye on Knicks Go. He can stalk him all the way to King Abdulaziz Race Course’s long backstretch, then pounce when needed.
Even with their relatively good post draws, the American chorus, aka Max Player, Sleepy Eyes Todd and perennial Grade/Group 1 bridesmaid Tacitus, can’t keep up with those speedsters. All they can do is hope Knicks Go and Charlatan engage in a suicidal speed duel that leaves them juicy pieces of a $20 million purse. The biggest piece: $10 million for first place.
Saudi Cup Post Draw Could Help Americans Again
Last year, American horses went 1-2-4-5, with Maximum Security and Midnight Bisou completing the exacta. Mucho Gusto finished fourth, one spot ahead of Tacitus. It’s likely that the Americans will dominate the board yet again.
Max Player finished in the top five of all three Triple Crown races last year. Sleepy Eyes Todd is multiple graded-stakes placed. And Tacitus – for all his Grade 1 misadventures – owns multiple Grade 2 wins. He did finish fifth here last year against a better field.
The best international threat will likely come from Prix du Jockey Club winner Mishriff. The John Gosden-trained colt finished second in last year’s Saudi Derby Cup. He starts in Post 12.
The other intriguing, but likely overmatched international contender is Chuwa Wizard. The 2020 Japan Dirt Horse of the Year starts from the rail.