Five-year-old all-set for Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap at The Saudi Cup meeting
18 February 2022 – Joseph O’Brien will bid to add to his glittering CV next week when sending two horses to The Saudi Cup meeting – Baron Samedi in the $2.5m Longines Red Sea Handicap and Thunder Moon in the $1.5m 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc.
Despite only taking out a training licence in 2015, the 28-year-old has already won the Melbourne Cup twice, the Cox Plate and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and he’s hoping Baron Samedi, the winner of the Grade 2 Belmont Stakes last year, can continue his fine international record when he runs in the Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi Arabia.
“He’s a good, solid horse who just keeps progressing and always seems to turn up on the day,” O’Brien said. “He seems in good form at home and this is the race we’ve always had in mind to start him off in this season.
“We’ve had some great days around the world so far and this looks a really good opportunity to have a go at a big pot again.”
Baron Samedi, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore, won seven races in a row during 2020 and 2021 over a variety of distances and surfaces, and while O’Brien thinks 2800m might be his optimum trip, he’s hopeful the track at King Abdulaziz Racecourse should play to the horse’s strengths.
“It looks as if those middle distance to staying races are where we will run him this season. He might perhaps prefer a little shorter than the trip in Saudi, but it’s a tight-enough track and I think the trip should be okay for him.
“He won on a tight track in America in that Grade 2 last year, so he’s proven he can handle this sort of test and I’m hopeful he’ll run very well.”
Earlier on the card, O’Brien runs Thunder Moon in the 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc, and although the four-year-old, who is set to be ridden by Christophe Soumillon, didn’t quite live up to the hype that was expected after a stellar two-year-old season, his trainer hasn’t given up hope on the son of Zoffany.
“He was unlucky not to be a Group 1 winner last year having been beaten a head in France and if he gets a good draw, we’d be hopeful he could run into some prize money.
“I think it’s fair to say he’s not the most consistent, but on the pick of his form he’s not without a chance, and I think we’ve finally found his optimum conditions.”
Thunder Moon won the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh and was third in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket as a two-year-old and O’Brien feels much of the reason for an unsuccessful three-year-old campaign was down to him.
“We very nearly won a Group 1 with him last season, so the ability is still there, and I don’t think it’s a case of him not training on. Sometimes as a trainer you get the wrong formula and I think we’ve only just figured out the conditions he really wants.”
O’Brien is just one of many international trainers sending horses over to Saudi Arabia for The Saudi Cup meeting and it’s an event the Irish handler will continue to target in the future.
He said: “Certainly for us moving forward it’s very high on our radar for early in the season. It’s a pleasure to go out there with two horses that hopefully can acquit themselves well and we’re keen to take more horses over in the future. It’s a meeting we very much see as a permanent fixture for the years to come.”
Photo Credit: Focus On Racing
Saudi Jockey Club Press Release