Taif News

Jimmy Jerkens optimistic ahead of his second Taif season

By Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia
Thursday, 4th July 2024, 11:30am

Several Jerkens stable stars expected to reappear at King Khaled Racecourse

Thursday 4 July 2024 – Multiple Grade 1-winning US trainer Jimmy Jerkens is expecting to run plenty of HRH Prince Faisal Bin Khaled Bin Abdulaziz’s Red Stable horses in the coming months of the Taif season, which begins today at King Khaled Racecourse.

“I’m always looking for some action, so I’m looking forward to it,” Jerkens said.

“We’ve put a couple in for the first day, but most of the others will need another work or two to be ready. There are two ways of looking at that, on one hand you don’t think you’re quite ready but on the other hand, everyone else is in the same boat.

Jerkens runs the three-year-old filly Bint Alreeh (USA) in the third race today a maiden over 1200m and Alrahy, a four year old colt, also a maiden over 1600m.

This will be Jerkens’ second season training in Saudi Arabia following his move from the US in 2023, and he has plenty of optimism about the campaign ahead, including with an exciting new recruit to the Red Stable.

“It’s easier [than last season]. There are a couple of two-year-olds that have come in and there’s a three-year-old that they’ve bought that I’m excited about, a horse called Tireless. He only won one race back home for [Todd] Pletcher but he was a $850,000 yearling. I think he’s the ideal horse for Saudi, because he’s three and he’s only run four or five times. If he takes to it here, he might really be a star.

“You always want to have horses in the big races, but it’s tough to get a really good one.”

Several of Jerkens’ established stable stars are expected to appear in Taif in the coming months, including Derevo and My Frankel, but Grocer Jack is likely to wait until the Riyadh turf season for his reappearance.

“My Frankel ran so well last year – he ran three bang up races for us in Riyadh. At his age he probably doesn’t want to be racing too much and the ideal thing would probably be to run him once here and then go to Riyadh.

“We’ll probably start Derevo off here. We went to run him here last year, but he got sick on us, and we had to throw the whole season out here. We’d like to run him a couple of times.

“Grocer Jack has pretty much proven he’s strictly a turf horse. His first time on dirt was good but he ran terrible the next time, so last year, we kind of decided with the turf season coming up, and his rating still high enough, to have a go. He ended up winning the Neom Turf Cup Trial, and then he ran very well in the Neom.”

The new Taif season features a streamlined programme of 39 race meetings, with a total of 351 races, and an increase in handicaps this season will aim to promote more competitive racing.

There have also been some changes to the racing surface in Taif, and Jerkens believes that the track at King Khaled Racecourse has improved since last season.

“I know they’ve added a lot of material to it, and it’s given it a better cushion. I think the track is in perfect shape this year and it will be just right for everybody.

“I like it because it’s not as fast as Riyadh, but it’s not as slow as it was last year, which is good. I would say, judging by the breezes in the morning, it takes a decent horse to work 50/10 for 800m, which is perfect. Last year they were falling on their head doing 52.”

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia’s summer venue, Taif’s high altitude means it experiences much cooler temperatures than the rest of the country, and Jerkens is certainly appreciating the cooler climate.

“When we left Riyadh is was around 46C each day, so it was time to get out of there! It’s much cooler in Taif, it’s very pleasant in the mornings and the evenings and I don’t think it’s been over 35C here yet. Here 35C feels like 30C back home because there’s no humidity.”

Attendance to races at King Khaled Racecourse is free. For more information visit www.jcsa.sa.