Saudi Cup 2021 Horses, Odds, Handicap Predictions & Preview

The world’s richest horse race, Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup, will again draw a top-notch international field in its second running, led by a strong contingent of U.S.-based horses.

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On paper, the 1,800 meter (9 furlongs) race for 4-year-olds and up at King Abdulaziz Racecourse outside the Saudi capital of Riyadh looks very much like a showdown between the American superstars Charlatan and Knicks Go.

But as last year’s inaugural running showed, there are still opportunities for good payoffs in the exotics, even if the two likely favorites hit the board.

The marquee race, which will pay $10 million to the winner, is the capstone event of two days of stakes races with a total of $30.5 million in purses. The races are being run before a small crowd of owners and horsemen, with no fans present due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Where to watch, bet

The Saudi Cup 2021 will be broadcast live in the U.S. on Fox Sports 1 from noon to 1 p.m. ET. The undercard races on Saturday will be shown on Fox Sports 2 the TVG cable network beginning at 8:15 a.m.

Betting will be available in the U.S. at most racetrack and simulcast sites and through advance-deposit wagering sites. Check with your provider to ensure you aren’t shut out.

Saudi Cup 2021 Horses & Odds:

Here is the full field expected to contest the Saudi Cup:

Post

Horse/Based

Jockey

Trainer

William Hill odds

Comment

1

Chuwa Wizard (Japan)

Keita Tosaki

Ryuji Okubo

12-1

Won the Champions Cup on the dirt in December, easily besting Japanese runners Gold Dream and Chrysoberyl, who finished 5th and 6th in the 2020 Saudi Cup.

2

Bangkok (U.K.)

Ryan Moore

Andrew Balding

33-1

Winner of the Feb. 6 Winter Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield in the U.K. for the second year in a row, the 5-year-old will be making his first start on dirt.

3

Great Scot (Saudi Arabia)

Adel Alfouraidi

Abdullah Mushrif

50-1

Saudi connections purchased 4-year-old son of Mr Greeley after Group 3 victory in U.K. with this spot in mind; colt has never raced beyond a mile or on dirt.

4

Max Player (U.S.)

TBA

Steve Asmussen

25-1

Only horse to compete in all three Triple Crown races last year will make his 2021 debut on the other side of the planet.

5

Knicks Go (U.S.)

Joel Rosario

Brad H Cox

5-2

Speedball showed he can handle the distance with front-running victory in the Pegasus World Cup in January at Gulfstream Park.

6

Global Giant (U.K.)

Frankie Dettori

John Gosden

25-1

Trainer hoped 6-year-old son of Shamardal would draw outside to give him his best chance; U.K. punters prefer stablemate Mishriff in early betting.

7

Tacitus (U.S.)

John Velazquez

William Mott

12-1

Three-time graded stakes winner lacks a passing gear and will have to grind out a victory if he is to win. Might improve on last year’s fifth-place finish, though.

8

Sleepy Eyes Todd (U.S.)

Alexis Moreno

Miguel Angel Silva

25-1

Dropped well off the pace before finishing fourth in Pegasus World Cup (Gr. 1), about eight lengths behind Knicks Go. Trainer wants him closer to pace in this spot.

9

Charlatan (U.S.)

Mike Smith

Bob Baffert

3-2

4-year-old colt blasted a talented field in the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 26 and figures to vie for favoritism with Knicks Go.

10

Military Law (U.A.E.)

Antonio Fresu

Musabbeh Al Mheriri

10-1

Won the Al Mahktoum Challenge (Gr. 2) Round 1, local springboard for this race. Benbatl won Round 2 last year en route to his 3rd in the Saudi Cup. Chance at a price.

11

Simsir (Bahrain)

Adrie De Vries

Fawzi Nass

33-1

Barely held on to beat Global Giant in the Bahrain International Trophy on Nov. 20 after opening big lead in upper stretch. Lack of dirt experience a concern.

12

Mishriff (U.K.)

David Egan

John Gosden

7-1

Winner of the Prix du Jockey Club (Gr. I) before running up the track in the Champions Stakes at Ascot ran second on dirt on 2020 Saudi Cup undercard.

13

Derevo

Christian Demuro

Sir Michael Stoute

50-1

Juddmonte homebred won King’s Cup over course, so footing won’t be an issue. Cutback in distance from 1 1/4 miles won’t hurt either. Huge jump in class is another matter.

14

Extra Elusive (U.K.)

Hollie Doyle

Roger Charlton

33-1

Qipco Champion Stakes (Gr. 1) winner in October over a “soft/heavy” turf course. Has experience on artificial racing surface, but this will be first try on dirt.

Handicapping the Saudi Cup 2021
It seemed logical last year that U.S.-based horses would hold an advantage in the Saudi Cup by virtue of having competed in the highest-level dirt racing on the planet. That was borne out by the results in the first running of the race: U.S. based runners took down four of the top five placings, with star-crossed Maximum Security crossing the wire first, a half-length ahead of the sensational mare Midnight Bisou. 

Benbatl (GB), based in the United Arab Emirates, was the only runner not based in the States to hit the board, finishing third.

The other U.S.-based runners this year are Max Player, Sleepy Eyes Todd and Tacitus, who returns for a second crack at the big prize.

As mentioned above, this could turn out to be a two horse race as soon as they leave the starting gate. Knicks Go, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, both Grade 1s, has sharp speed and will almost certainly try to take the field gate to wire, while Charlatan, winner of the 7-furlong Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, is the horse most likely to apply pressure to Knicks Go early.

The remainder of the field seems likely to be bunched about four to six lengths behind the front-runners as they wage their own personal war up the backstretch and around the far turn.

The battle will likely become furious as they turn for home, with a head-and-head thriller down to the wire seemingly the most likely outcome.

How then to make money off a race where the top two betting choices figure to dominate?

The answer was supplied by the 2020 edition.

When Benbatl (GB), based in the United Arab Emirates, stuck his nose in front of Mucho Gusto’s in the final strides before the wire, the value to be found in some U.S. exotic parimutuel pools skyrocketed, with returns of $241.90 on a $1 trifecta and $1,247.70 on a $1 superfecta.

 in U.S. pools.  

That’s what I’m hoping will happen again this year.

I’ll play some trifectas and superfectas using Charlatan and Knicks Go, with a trio of overseas runners I think have the best chance of sneaking into third or possibly even second: Chuwa Wizard, winner of the Champions Cup in Japan, which is contested on dirt; Military Law, who won one of the Saudi prep races this year as Benbatl did last year; and Mishriff, who showed he can handle the dirt surface on the undercard of last year’s Saudi Cup.

If one of the other U.S. runners hits the board, I’ll be going home empty-handed. But if one or more of the three above can sneak in for third or fourth, I’ll be looking at a nice payday, even with two short-prices favorites in the mix.

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