Saudi Cup News

Saudi contenders fly flag in Dubai for World Cup night

Wednesday, 27th March 2024, 2:30pm

Image credit: Asfan Al Khalediah maintained his unbeaten record in winning the Obaiya Arabian Classic at The Saudi Cup. Credit: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia / Ali Al-Abdullah

Unbeaten Purebred Arabian Asfan Al Khalediah spearheads Saudi challenge, Defunded renews rivalry with Señor Buscador in World Cup and Saudi Crown holds Godolphin Mile favouritism

Wednesday 27 March 2024 – Unbeaten Asfan Al Khalediah and this year’s Saudi Cup-third Saudi Crown are among a contingent of Saudi owned or trained horses heading to The Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday March 30.

Asfan Al Khalediah extended his unbeaten career sequence to a remarkable 17 wins when comfortably landing the G1 Diriyah Gate Development Authority Obaiyah Arabian Classic on dirt on Saudi Cup night last month and is set to line up in the G1 Dubai Kahayla Classic over the same 2000m trip at Meydan.

He will be joined in the contest by his stablemate Tilal Al Khalediah, himself a G1 winner at The Saudi Cup meeting after his victory in the 2100m Ministry Of Culture Al Mneefah Cup on the turf and a winner of nine of his 11 career starts.

This will be the first time the two have clashed on the racecourse. Mutlaq bin Mishriff, stable representative at Al Khalediah Stables, said: “Both are illustrious champions, with golden records. Undoubtedly, the aspiration is to secure victories under the banner of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, championed by His Highness Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz and Al Khalediah.

“We meticulously analyse the race calendar to tailor strategic plans for our horses in top events. We thrive on the thrill of competition and challenges.”

Another Saudi-trained Purebred Arabian set to line up in the Kahayla Classic is Dergham Athbah, who will represent trainer Lucas Gaitan and the Athbah Racing operation which also fields Walk Of Stars in the Godolphin Mile.

Speaking about the decision to go to Dubai with Dergham Athbah, Gaitan said: “After the Obaiyah he was training great, that's why we decided to go to Dubai. We are very happy with him, so let’s hope everything continues like that.

“We think he can run a very nice race in Dubai – last year he was fourth when coming from behind. Of course we will do everything to win, but this year is probably tougher and to be in the top five would be great.”

Saudi Arabia is represented in the $12 million Dubai World Cup by the Abdulaziz K Mishref-trained Defunded who will reoppose the The Saudi Cup winner, Señor Buscador as well as Japanese contenders Ushba Tesoro and Derma Sotogake, who were second and fifth in the $20m Riyadh event.

Misghref, the youngest trainer to have a runner in both The Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup is confident of an improved run at Meydan from his six-year-old.

“We believe he will come on for the run in The Saudi Cup as he was fresh then,” said Mishref. “The horse is showing signs of progress and is responding well to the training routines that have been planned for him.”

Defunded appeared to get worked up before running in The Saudi Cup, but Mishref doesn’t expect that to be such a problem this time around: “We are endeavouring to make him calm. The horse has become very calm in training as well as in the stable. His nervousness was notable during the preliminaries of The Saudi Cup, and I hope he will overcome that in the Dubai World Cup.”

Few Saudi-owned horses are likely to have a better chance of victory in Dubai than Saudi Crown, who finished a gallant third behind Señor Buscador and Ushba Tesoro in The Saudi Cup last time out.

Trained by Brad Cox in the USA and running in the instantly recognisable silver silks of Faisal Al Qahtani’s FMQ Stables, Saudi Crown is favourite for the G2 Godolphin Mile.

He will be joined by Scotland Yard, a winner of multiple major races in Saudi Arabia, including the internationally Listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup, and was last seen finishing eighth in The Saudi Cup.