Carmel Road, Defunded Represent Local Connections in Saudi Cup

February 23, 2024

National Treasure in a breeze at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh. (Ali Abdullah)

The Saudi Cup Notes

Riyadh—All of the entries and their connections for the $20 million Saudi Cup were out and about on Thursday at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. Caramel Road and Defunded will represent their local Saudi Arabian connections. Crown Pride, Derma Sotogake and Ushba Tesoro will be representing Japan.  

Pegasus World Cup champ National Treasure, Saudi Crown, Hoist the Gold and Breeders’ Cup winner White Abarrio all had easy days.  

Carmel Road (USA) – Ownership representative Talal bin Shareem reports the local runner to be going well.

“Everything is normal with him, same routine, he’s fine and happy,” he said. “He has drawn wide in 14 but we think it will be OK for him. There seems to be a lot of speed in the race.”

Crown Pride (JPN) – Completed two laps of cantering on the training track.

“He was very relaxed, and he is in a good mood,” Masafumi Matsuda, a stable representative, said.

Defunded (USA) – Arrives as one of the most accomplished horses in the race, having won four Graded stakes in America, including a pair of Grade 1 affairs. Privately purchased this winter by racing manager Khalid bin Mishref for Muhaideb Abdullah A Almuhaideb, a new face in thoroughbred ownership, the seven-time winning son of Dialed In will make his first start for Saudi Arabian connections, where Luis Saez will ride.

“The horse is doing very well since shipping,” Bin Mishref, whose son Abdulaziz Khalid bin Mishref trains, said. “We were worried if he would acclimatise quickly or not, but he has and has even shown improvement day by day. It’s gone as planned with him. I think he will, hopefully, perform to his peak this weekend.”

Defunded winning the Californian at Santa Anita April 2023. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Formerly in the stable of Bob Baffert, the consistent charge was last seen finishing second in the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita in October over the same 1800m distance of The Saudi Cup. Brokered by Frankie O’Connor’s Kildare Stud Farm, he was sold to his new connections and has been in steady training since the October run, breezing in Ocala before shipping to Saudi Arabia on December 17 and breezing steadily at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

“It’s unbelievable to get a horse you really want, and you succeed with the sale, bring him to Riyadh and compete in the world’s most valuable race,” Bin Mishref continued.

“It’s really an honour to compete against these great horses with our horse. It’s very rare that it works out, but hopefully he completes his mission the right way. The competition is tough. The Japanese and Americans are very good, with winners of the Breeders’ Cup, Dubai World Cup and Pegasus winners. It’s such a quality field.

“Post 9 really worked well for us. The speed horses are to the left of us and will go to the front and hopefully we can watch from behind them and close to them. Hopefully he will come and claim the cup. We are feeling optimistic. I am not saying we are going to win, but we do love our post and our horse is doing well, inshallah.”

Derma Sotogake (JPN) – Had a quiet day and was just hand-walked.

“Everything goes well, and he will do a light work tomorrow morning,” Hidetaka Otonashi, his trainer, said.

Hoist the Gold taking the Cigar Mile (Janet Napolitano)

Hoist The Gold (USA) – From humble bayou beginnings to training top-level horses for the world’s richest and most prestigious dirt races, New Orleans native Dallas Stewart appears to flourish when overlooked on the big stage and hopes to keep that narrative on the right trajectory with Dream Team One Racing Stable’s challenger, who had an easy 2000m canter of the King Abdulaziz Racecourse dirt on Thursday morning. 

The 64-year-old conditioner’s honour roll of upsets and surprise results include an upending of Songbird with Forever Unbridled in the 2017 Personal Ensign, taking the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with forgotten filly Unbridled Elaine, nearly upsetting Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Woodward and finishing an unexpected second in the 2008 Preakness with Macho Again as well as placing in three other American classics with massively overlooked runners-up Commanding Curve, Tale of Verve and Golden Soul.

Hoist the Gold, a surprisingly dominant winner of the Cigar Mile in December, has Stewart excited to take on the very best, yet again. 

“Our horse looks great, he’s feeling great, he shipped well and he’s one happy horse – that’s all I can ask for,” Stewart said. “This is a real smart horse who has some credentials. He loves this place, according to his rider Pedro Velez.

“I’m honoured to be here and fortunate to get invited,” Stewart concluded. “This horse has some credentials, so we’re going to see what happens. You got to believe in what you’re doing and have the animal healthy and training all the time to get a good feel for the horse – and this horse has been with us for a long time.

“It’s all about winning. If you’re not in it to win, you best stay home and if you don’t want to be in great races like this, you ought to go do something else.”

Lemon Pop (USA) – Was hand walked around the quarantine stable.

National Treasure (USA) – “He exercised well this morning,” Bob Baffert’s assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said.

“He then stood in the gates, got some practice there so he’s in good shape. He has a good post to work from in seven. This is our fifth runner in this race, we have been second three times, so we are hoping to make the breakthrough.”

Power In Numbers (USA) – “Happy with him. All normal. His draw in 10 is good too,” ownership representative Talal bin Shareem said:

Saudi Crown floating down the rail to victory under a hand ride from Florent Geroux in the Pennsylvania Derby. (Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO)

Saudi Crown (USA) – The Brad Cox trainee, who had a serious breeze on Monday, has been working quietly towards his weekend assignment and was back on the dirt track.

“Saudi Crown stood in the gates this morning and then had his normal routine gallop, it went very well,” Cox’s son and assistant Blake said. “We drew post five of 14, so we’ll probably break running and just let Florent [Geroux, jockey] find him a nice comfortable position and get him relaxed and hopefully be able to kick home.”

Geroux, the French-born rider who has become a leading name in America, has won most of the biggest prizes in his adopted home and is looking forward to the international challenge.

“He’s done nothing wrong,” he said. “He’s a very lightly-raced horse, with more races under his belt we hope he’ll be competitive this time.

“I think he’s more suited from a mile [1600m] to a mile and an eighth [1800m] and the one-turn should be ideal for him. It’s a very deep race. I’ve been on him many times before, I know him very well, the work rider has done a perfect job and I’ll leave it to them. 

“There looks like fair amount of speed in the race. It’s hard to plan the race before the gates open, you need to be prepared and have a good idea who should be close to me and in front of me and take it from there.”

Geroux partnered Mandaloun for Cox in The Saudi Cup two years ago but was a somewhat disappointing ninth. “I think it’s a bit different,” he said. “Mandaloun came here and had run more, they were different types of horses. I’m hoping it’s not the same result.”

Senor Buscador (USA) – Joe Peacock Jr’s homebred Grade 2 winner left the quarantine barn and had a routine 2000m canter around the dirt track at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Thursday just after 7am.

Exercise rider Oscar Rojero was aboard the Todd Fincher-trained charge. “He was great today, he went to the track and schooled at the gate and did great at that, then we jogged before an easy [canter].” Rojero said. “He came back and wasn’t tired at all and is very happy.”

Ushba Tesoro (JPN) – Was hand-walked around the quarantine stable

“He is very settled in and is fit and ready now,” assistant to trainer Noboru Takagi, Masakazu Fukami, said.

White Abarrio victorious in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

White Abarrio (USA) – The wellbeing of Breeders’ Cup winner White Abarrio (USA) since landing in Saudi Arabia is filling trainer Rick Dutrow with confidence. The 5-year-old grey remained in the training barn this morning as he follows a now familiar process. 

“We were just training him the regular way at Belmont on the training track and his first breeze or two after he had run in the Met [Metropolitan Handicap], we do basic stuff and he went 52 and change, it’s beautiful and fine,” Dutrow explained. 

“We thought we had a chance of beating a couple of horses in the Whit [Whitney Stakes]. We weren’t expecting or hoping to beat Cody’s Wish but two turns at Saratoga might not have been Cody’s Wish’s game, who knows, so we said we’d take a chance. 

“But I never got to breeze him for the race, so we were like 10 days without breezing, and you just show up. But we did breeze him the morning of [the race] and Irad [Ortiz] happened to be there watching. It wasn’t my plan, I wasn’t even there, I was on my way up because I had to train at Belmont, but Irad caught it and he was wondering if we were going to scratch!” laughed the trainer. 

“He called me and said, ‘Babe, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘Well, we’re just trying to win a race, man!’. 

“It worked out unbelievable, so seeing that happen I repeated the same process for the Breeders’ Cup. When I knew that we were coming here, it was like 11 days before we came and I was like man, they are playing into our hands because we don’t need to breeze him. We can play the same game and right now I feel that he is over the trip and he’s himself now.

“We will take him to the training track on Friday to jog him. This is not by design; it is only because what happened at Saratoga. You never know about things until you try and when you do try them and they work, you want to keep them in that zone.”

Friday’s Race Programme

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