Elite Power surges home to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)
~ U.S. Sprinters Elite Power and Gunite Go Global
~ Japan Well Represented, Dancing Prince Looks To Defend Title
By Amber Joyce
Preceding the Saudi Cup is the USD$1.5M Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3), a 1200M (6 furlongs) dash for horses aged three years old and upward. Japan will send out four runners in hopes of capturing this race for the third consecutive year, but many eyes will likely be on the American runners.
Leading the United States contingent is Bill Mott-trained Elite Power (USA), last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) champion and Eclipse Award Champion Male Sprinter of 2022. The Riyadh Dirt Sprint will be Elite Power’s first race since the Breeders’ Cup as well as his first journey to the Middle East. Should he win, that would boost his win streak to six.
Also flying over from the States is Gunite (USA), fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and most recently, an easy winner of the King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn Park. A G1 winner as a two-year-old and a G2 winner at three, Gunite looks to secure a third graded stakes win.
Though he may not boast a record as impressive as Elite Power or Gunite, Meraas (GB) does have winning experience on this side of the globe, having won the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) in February of last year. Meraas made his stateside debut in September for trainer Chad Summers but didn’t make it to the winner’s circle until two starts later when he won an allowance optional claiming event at Aqueduct Racetrack on Dec. 30.
As mentioned previously, Japanese runners have come out on top in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint in both 2021 and 2022, with Copano Kicking and Dancing Prince, respectively.
Dancing Prince (JPN) returns this year in an attempt to defend his title for trainer Keisuke Miyata. His wire-to-wire win in last year’s edition was the fastest running of the race in a record time of 1:10.26.
The seven-year-old hasn’t won a graded stakes race since then but has won two listed events, including the JBC Sprint in November, in which he clocked a final time just a tick off the stakes record for the 1200M distance.
Justin (JPN) skipped this race last year but was sixth in the 2021 renewal. This nine-time winner by Orfevre hasn’t won since February of 2022 but was third in a title-defending attempt in the Cappella (G3) at Nakayama in December. Yoshito Yahagi handles the training.
The winner of the aforementioned Capella (G3) was Remake (JPN), who will make his 2023 debut here for Koichi Shintani. Remake has won five of his nine starts, including three stakes.
Last of the Japanese contingent is Jiro Ono’s eight-year-old veteran Ryuno Yukina (JPN), with nine wins, thirteen seconds, and one third from a sizeable 47 career starts. A five-time stakes winner sprinting in his home country, Ryuono Yukina has yet to win a graded stakes race but has placed in back-to-back editions of the Capella (G3).
Two locally based horses will look to make their country proud, including Pagan (IRE) for trainer Faisal Almandeel. Most recently a winner of the Dirt Sprint Qualifier at King Abdulaziz on Jan. 27, Pagan has won three races in a row. This will be his first stab at winning a graded race.
Watch Pagan (post position #14) win the Dirt Sprint Qualifier:
The other local horse is King’s Slipper (GB), making his first start since 2020 and his first start in Saudi Arabia. Abdullah Mishriff trains this five-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux.
United Arab Emirates will also send out a duo, led by 2021 UAE Two Thousand Guineas winner Mouheeb (USA). In his last start, this Michael Costa trainee was a solid third in the Dubawi (G3) on Jan. 6 at Meydan. He entered that graded event off the back of two wins, including a 1 ½ length score in the listed Al Garhoud Sprint.
Bhupat Seemar’s Freedom Fighter (USA) has yet to win a race since breaking his maiden on debut in 2020 for former conditioner Bob Baffert. Freedom Fighter was last seen Feb. 3 at Meydan, finishing third in the Al Shindagha Sprint (G3).
Likely fields for the rest of the two-day Saudi Cup racing festival can be accessed here.
It was recently announced that the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will partner with Equine MediRecord for this year’s Saudi Cup to ensure equine welfare protocols are followed at the event. This will help all of the trainers at this year’s event more easily keep track of all of their trainee’s needs and care.
For more on Equine MediRecord, visit www.equinemedirecord.com.