Best bets for the horseracing around the globe this weekend

With the Cheltenham Festival less than three weeks away it’s not the time to get overly involved with the Jumps racing for me; most of the good’uns are wrapped up at home waiting for next month, and I am leaving the meeting at Kempton Park alone despite there being three Grade two races on the card.

I am concentrating on the Flat this Saturday on the All-Weather meeting here in the UK at Southwell and the horseracing in Saudi Arabia at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, Riyadh which of course includes the Group One Saudi Cup amongst several decent races with international fields.

Best bets for the horseracing at Southwell

Having won his two starts on Tapeta, the last over track and trip Clarendon House has an obvious chance in the Listed 5f  BetUK Hever Sprint Stakes that gets the meeting underway at 2.45. Fourth in the G.2 Blue Point Sprint Presented by Longines on the Turf at Meydan last month, Luke Morris should be able to bounce his mount out of stall nine here and put him where he wants early before going clear in the final furlong. I am on at 10-11 early.

Having moved from Lingfield Park the Group Three now 1m3f Winter Derby,  the first Group contest of the year in the UK, is the main event in Nottinghamshire on the Tapeta track. Lord North won over the 1m2f on the Polytrack last year, was second in 2022, and runs again this year before heading for the G.1 Dubai Turf at Meydan in March - the same route taken the last two seasons. The extra furlong and Tapeta surface do raise questions for the eight-year-old but he is the class act in the race yet again. Just beaten in the Winter Derby Trial here over track and trip last month Military Order looks the obvious danger if the jolly falters. Having been gelded over the winter that run will have put the four-year-old spot on for this and it shouldn’t be forgotten he went off one of the favourites for the Derby last season having won the Lingfield Derby Trial prior. The full-brother to 2021 Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes hero Adayar could easily have more to offer yet. His trainer Charlie Appleby said this week “Military Order has definitely come forward since his last start. He ticks a couple of boxes in that he has run well already this year over the track and trip. He should be a big player based on the pick of his three-year-old form and what he achieved in the trial.” I am hopeful he will have come on for his recent run and can outstay the jolly. I am on at 2-1

Best bets for the horseracing at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Unsurprisingly, with the cash on offer, there are raiders from across the world in Saudi Arabia for the Saudi Cup meeting at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. Racing TV are covering the meeting and there is a live stream available on YouTube of all the races on the JCSA page. They get underway at midday our time here in the UK with the Ministry Of Culture Jockey Club Local Handicap which I am steering well clear of. The first of the big races is the Group Three Mile Boutique Group Saudi Derby at 2.00 on the dirt track. Japanese raider Forever Young is all the rage at 4-7 but I simpley don't know enough about the horse to be backing it at that price so it's no bet for me. 

The Group Three 6f Sports Boulevard Riyadh Dirt Sprint at 2.40 looks a little more competitive with a few in with chances. A number of the fancied horses are drawn in the higher numbers so it may get interesting early in this. Tuz led every yard of the G.3 Dubawi Stakes at Meydan last time and will be dangerous if going on the B of the Bang again here but he’ll have to get across from eleven. Local hope Rebellious Stage was racing in America last year, and though on paper has to improve, is considered. Remake has perhaps the best draw of the fancied runners but the Japanese raider won’t necessarily want to take it up early. Skelly over from America has been in great form over the last few months for Steeven Asmussen and has to be considered to continue his impressive unbeaten run. He likes to be up the pointed end from the off and should be able to break smartly from ten and get across and then it’s game on. I am on at the 4-1 this moring. 

At 3.25 we switch to the Turf track for the 7f Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint. Winner of his last two starts at Meydan in the Dubai Carnival Mysterious Night has made the trip across the border along with William Buick who’ll be in the saddle again. His wins in the Jebel Ali handicap and G.2 Al Fahidi Fort at Meydan were both over this trip and he looked very good in the Al Fahidi Fort winning a shade cosily. He looks back to his best and can take this that being the case. I am on at 11-4 early. Charlie Appleby said in the build-up “It’s great to be participating at a big meeting like this with a horse who has a live chance. Mysterious Night has shipped into Saudi well and comes into this on the back of two nice victories at Meydan. He heads here with plenty of confidence and will be a big player if he gets a clear run round. Fingers crossed, he will be there or thereabouts." He is the team from Moulton Paddocks only runner at the meeting, and though stall nine aint great, you can be sure no stone has been left unturned. Art Power will make them go early you would think, he’ll have to from stall thirteen, but might be in the places still at the end on a turning seven-furlongs.

Luxembourg had a couple of entries at the meeting with the Group Two 1m2½f $2million Howden Neom Turf Cup at 4.10 our time being the race he will run in after discussions at Ballydoyle. Aidan O’Brien said in the build-up “It’s his first run back after a little break and we just felt it (Saudi Cup) was going to be too tough a race to pitch him into for his first time on dirt. The competition is very strong, and he’s never run on the surface before, so we thought it was a bit too much to ask of him. The Neom Turf Cup will suit him better.” Luxembourg was last seen when beaten by a short-head by Romantic Warrior in the G.1 Hong Kong Cup in December and his trainer appears pleased with how he has recovered from those exertions. “We’ve been very happy with him since Hong Kong. It was the first time he’d been on a long trip abroad and he ran a great race and took the travel very well,” O’Brien said a few days ago “We were very pleased with the run and he’s been in good form since. Hopefully, he runs well in the Neom Turf Cup and maybe that opens up the option of Dubai. He could be a horse that travels a lot over the coming year. He’s got a very high level of form and some solid foundations to build from. The Neom Turf Cup looks ideal. Everyone has been very complimentary about the track in Riyadh, and we think it’s a track that will really suit him, and obviously the prize money is very good, so we had to consider it. The Saudi Cup meeting is a very important festival now and it’s great to be going there with a couple of good chances.” Stall thirteen is far from ideal though so Ryan Moore will have to be on his game early. Officially he has a few pounds in hand on the field and I think the slightly cautious approach running in this rather than the big one can pay dividends. I am on at 10-11 which is skinny but if he gets in a good spot early he wins. The Foxes, winner of the G.2 Dante Stakes last season, is due to line up for trainer Andrew Balding and King Power Racing. Fifth in the Derby last year he was then the runner-up in the G.1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes last July out in the States before a disappointing run in the G.1 Juddmonte International at York. He was third in the Winter Derby Trial at Southwell in late January as a warm-up for this assignment and connections are hopeful. Alastair Donald, racing manager to King Power Racing, said of the colt “We gave The Foxes a bit of a pipe-opener at Southwell in preparation for his trip to Saudi Arabia. It was not ideal conditions for him, and he needed the run, but we were happy with it and that will have put him spot on for this back on his favoured fast ground over an extended 10 furlongs.” Connections apparently expect him to be better at four and this has been the aim all winter so he has to be considered.

Tower Of London is the other runner over from Ballydoyle for the 1m7f Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap a Group Three Handicap at 4.50. Stall twelve is far from ideal again on the Turf track but Ryan Moore should be able to get him where he wants early. He stays the trip and has to be respected looking well handicapped under the race conditions. I noted Aidan O’Brien saying recently “Tower Of London has had a good long break all winter. We’ve aimed him at the Red Sea Turf as we think both the trip and nice ground will really suit him. We certainly think he’s a horse that’s going to progress a lot this season, so he could be a horse that goes onto Dubai after this.” I have 3-1. Al Nayyir is respected off the back of a good run at Meydan last time whilst Iron Barows from Japan is considered though he may want further. Enemy is also shortlisted along with Giavellotto but he looks anchored by top-weight.

The main event is of course the World’s richest race, the Group One 1m1f Saudi Cup on the Dirt track where US$20M is to be won. The Americans unsurprisingly hold a strong hand in this though it is quite an open affair. Grade one 1m1f Champions Cup winner at Chukyo racecourse Lemon Pop is over from Japan to represent Godolphin. His 2023 performances saw him crowned Japan's Best Dirt Horse ahead of Ushba Tesoro and Derma Sotogake, and he faces both here but looks the Land of the Rising Sun best chance. Derma Sotogake was just a length adrift of White Abarrio when second in the G.1 Breeders Cup Classic a career-best effort, but reportedly suffered a minor injury on the trip over. Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi said “The accident during the flight is the only concern but we did everything we could have done. He is in good form.”  1m1f G.1 Pegasus World Cup winner national Treasure is also here looking to snaffle some more prize money. Second to Cody's Wish in the G.1 Breeders Cup Mile in a real thriller before that the Bob Baffert trained four-year-old is another bringing top-class form to the table. in what should be a cracking race. 1m2f G.1 Breeders' Cup Classic winner White Abarrio heads the challenge from America and the market. He won the G.1 1m1f Whitney Stakes before that and you can't knock his recent form since moving from Saffie Joseph to Rick Dutrow. Irad Ortiz Jr rides again and he can put the five-year-old where he likes early breaking from stall one. The grey can add another big race to his CV and I am on at 3-1 happily as I thought he might be shorter. Trainer Rick Dutrow has been in bullish mood in the days before the race saying  “All the work has been done with him and he’s in a zone that I wish every horse that ever lived was in that kind of zone." He added “I feel if he is on his game and runs his race, he is going to be tough to beat. This race, a mile and an eighth (nine furlongs), around one turn…I feel as if he were to wake up in the morning and we were to ask him, ‘Hey babe, what do you wanna do for a $20million race?’, he’d say, ‘Make it a mile and an eighth around one turn’.” Dutrow stressed he was “all in” on the Saudi Cup – but would love to go on from Riyadh to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup.

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