Meraas gets his first stateside win Dec. 30 at Aqueduct (NYRA/Coglianese)
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Maitha Salem Mohammed Belobaida Alsuwaidi’s Meraas, trained by New York-based Chad Summers, will exit post 6 under Abner Adorno in Saturday’s Group 3 $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint, a 1,200-metre test [about six furlongs] on the undercard of the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
Meraas, a Group 3-winner at Meydan last February for his former conditioner Musabbeh Al Mheiri, made three NYRA circuit starts for Summers in 2022 led by a frontrunning optional-claiming score with Adorno up on December 30 here that garnered a 97 Beyer.
That effort followed a third-place finish in September at Saratoga in his North American debut, a six-furlong optional-claimer won by returning rival Elite Power; and a troubled off-the-board effort in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler in October at Belmont at the Big A.
Elite Power, who drew post 5 Saturday under Frankie Dettori, exited his Saratoga effort to win the Grade 2 Vosburgh at Belmont at the Big A and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland en route to Champion Male Sprinter honors.
Chief among Meraas’ rivals will be the Japan-based defending race winner Dancing Prince [post 7, Damian Lane] and multiple graded-stakes winner Gunite [post 2, Tyler Gaffalione], who won the 2021 Grade 1 Hopeful at the Spa.
“He shipped over well,” said Summers via phone from Saudi Arabia. “He has plenty of experience traveling before and has really blossomed since arriving. He had his final piece of work on Monday over the main track and was striding out beautifully. He’s giving us a lot of confidence he will take to this deep track here in Saudi.”
Summers said Meraas should benefit from his post 6 draw with both his main North American rivals to his inside and Dancing Prince in the next stall over.
“We love the draw. The gates here are really narrow. So, the less time in there the better,” Summers said. “Dancing Prince we feel is the other main speed and he is drawn just to the outside. So, we can play the break and if we outbreak him, we go. If he outbreaks us, we will sit on his hip. I would imagine Gunite will try and work out a stalking trip from his inside draw, but may have to deal with significant kickback down in there. We will watch the races Friday and first part of Saturday and make final plans, but overall we’re very happy with the draw.”
Summers has enjoyed past success in the Middle East, taking consecutive editions of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2017-18 at Meydan Racecourse with New York-bred Mind Your Biscuits, who is now a successful stud in Japan.
Summers said Saturday’s test is reminiscent of the 2018 Golden Shaheen in which Joel Rosario guided Mind Your Biscuits to a rallying head score over X Y Jet in a track record time of 1:10.12. Roy H, winner of the 2017 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, finished less than a length back in third with multiple Grade 1-winner Wild Dude fourth and the well-regarded Japan-based Matera Sky finishing fifth.
“It feels very similar to the 2018 Golden Shaheen with a Breeders’ Cup winner, a fast American horse coming off a huge speed figure, and top Japanese horses,” Summers said. “So, not necessarily a position we haven’t been in before.”
The Riyadh Dirt Sprint is slated as Race 7 at approximately 11:45 a.m. Eastern on Saturday’s eight-race card that concludes with the $20 million Saudi Cup. Coverage of the Saudi Cup card will be broadcast live from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Eastern on FS2.