Charlatan in Beast Mode for Saudi Cup

February 9, 2021

All eyes are soon to be fixated on American star Charlatan as he heads the market for next Saturday’s (Feb. 20) $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in greater Riyadh. The striking 4-year-old chestnut colt seeks to stake his claim as the top dirt horse in the world, while also taking home the $10 million first-place prize money. Standing in the Bob Baffert trainee’s way will be Brad Cox-conditioned Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner Knicks Go, as well as Champions Cup (G1) winner Chuwa Wizard, Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) victor Military Law and battle-hardened American G2 winners Tacitus and Sleepy Eyes Todd

Owned by the team of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John D. Fielding and Golconda Stables, Charlatan has been gingerly campaigned, to say the least, starting four times and crossing the wire first in all. He was disqualified from his six-length drubbing of the G1 Arkansas Derby last May for a medication violation, his third start, but returned seven months later to rub out a salty Malibu Stakes (G1) renewal over four graded stakes winners. 

Bred by Stonestreet and purchased by SF Bloodstock and Starlight for $700,000 at Keeneland’s 2018 September Yearling Sale, the son of Speightstown and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) third Authenticity has crossed the line ahead of his foes by an average 6.6 lengths per race and has been wowing onlookers in his preparation at Santa Anita Park in California. 

“He’s in beast mode right now,” said Tom Ryan, principal of SF Racing and SF Bloodstock. “He’s happy and healthy. As Speightstowns often do, he’s getting better with age. I personally believe he’s an enormous talent (and) 2021 will hopefully be a career-defining year for him. Speed and versatility is what separates the good from the great horses and when you see him, you will understand why we reached for him as a yearling.

“This colt was raised on one of the world’s finest nurseries, Stonestreet Farm, which in my estimation is one of the leading breeders of the modern era–a trend we’re likely to see continue. He is without question the most spectacular of his breed, he moved with incredible efficiency and everything was effortless for him.” 

Knicks Go is coming off one-sided performances in both the Breeders’ Cup and Pegasus–two races in which he went to the lead and barely saw another horse. From a speed figure standpoint, the pair are quite close, as Knicks Go earned a 108 for his Pegasus win, compared to a 107 for Charlatan’s Malibu–both eased up at the finish–and each earned Equibase Speed Figures of 115 for those efforts. The clash between two horses trying to lay claim to the same title is not lost on anyone, much less connections. 

“Knicks Go is a sensational racehorse,” Ryan concluded. “He also seems to be improving with time. Two very fast animals with the ability to cruise through very fast fractions will make for a very interesting race.”

The post position draw, which will obviously prove crucial, takes place on site on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

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