In a clear case of following the money, Charlatan will pass on the Pegasus and likely set down at the Saudi Cup. That’s what trainer Bob Baffert told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden on Sunday.

Charlatan-Saudi Cup
Charlatan’s stretch romp in the Malibu Stakes last month produced one of the most impressive wins of the year. He will likely run next in Saudi Arabia in the world’s richest race — the $20 million Saudi Cup. (Image: Benoit Photo)

Following the money, in this case, takes the 4-year-old son of Speightstown to Saudi Arabia on Feb. 20 for the $20 million, 1-1/8-mile Saudi Cup –  a race paying $10 million to the winner.

“The thing I like about the Saudi race is it’s a one-turn mile-and-an-eighth, and Charlatan is so fast. It’s a challenge, but it’s $20 million,” Baffert said. “That’s a lot of money.”

Charlatan, meanwhile, is a lot of horse. He returned from an eight-month absence with a resounding 4 ½-length victory in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. His win over seven furlongs came with a 107 Beyer Speed Figure and 118 Equibase Speed Figure – both career highs — and continued a streak where nobody beat him across a finish line.

Four Races, Four Triple-Digit Equibase Speed Figures

In his four races, Charlatan waxed his foes by a combined margin of 26-½ lengths. His average Equibase Speed Figure in those four races is 108.25. Charlatan’s only official loss came in the first division of the Arkansas Derby, where he was disqualified for a medication violation.

Before the Mailbu, that was Charlatan’s last start. Putting aside the fat purse halfway around the world, Baffert opted for the Saudi Cup from a timing standpoint. Charlatan’s Malibu romp and frolic took a lot out of a horse coming off a nearly eight-month hiatus.

Too Quick a Turnaround — Even for Charlatan

“That’s the plan right now. I’ve got another week to make up my mind, but he’d be coming back a little quick for the other race (the Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup) off a long layoff,” Baffert said. “And he ran so hard (in the Malibu). I worry about that.”

As if to put Baffert’s mind at ease, Charlatan took his first workout since that Malibu victory. He went a half-mile in an easy 49.80 seconds.