Timeform Preview: Saudi Cup

Racing on dirt
The Saudi Cup is the world's richest race

Timeform preview the inaugural renewal of the $20-million Saudi Cup (17:40 GMT) at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday...

"...showed high-class form in a stellar – if at times controversial – three-year-old campaign..."

Timeform on Maximum Security

The world's richest race, the $20-million Saudi Cup (17:40 GMT), takes place at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, and has attracted a field of top-class dirt horses.

Godolphin's Benbatl produced an eye-catching effort on his dirt debut when landing Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge at Meydan recently, travelling fluently on the heels of the leaders before readily going clear in the straight, ultimately winning by two lengths with a bit in hand. It was hard not to be impressed by that performance, and, while this represents a much tougher task, we know he is as talented as any of these judged on his high-class efforts on turf over the last couple of seasons.

Gronkowski was only third behind Benbatl in that contest, producing a rather laboured effort to be beaten the best part of 10 lengths. We know he is capable of better than that, though, as he showed when beaten just a nose by Thunder Snow in last year's Dubai World Cup, and he brings further strength in depth to a strong raiding party from Dubai, which also includes Capezzano and North America. That pair, who have some very smart form in the book between them, are other potential pace angles in the race, with both at their best when allowed to dominate.

Another runner who will be more familiar to British and Irish racegoers is the Aidan O'Brien-trained Magic Wand, who has a bit more to prove on her first try on dirt. Her willing attitude and remarkable constitution are sure to stand her in good stead, but it will probably take a career best for her to even be placed here, which is asking a lot given the unknows about the surface.

The favourite is the American raider Maximum Security, who showed himself to be capable of high-class form in a stellar - if at times controversial - three-year-old campaign. Disqualified after finishing first past the post in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Jason Servis' charge proved himself to be the best of his generation in the US by winning his final three starts, including when producing a career best to land the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in December, making all the running to land the spoils impressively by three and a half lengths.

That success means he has now finished first past the post in eight of his nine starts, and, though often on the front end in his races, he showed that he doesn't have to lead when beating subsequent Pegasus World Cup winner Mucho Gusto in the Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park last July. That could prove key in a race where several of his rivals seem likely to be on the speed, and the strength of that Aqueduct win identifies him as very much the one to beat on weight-adjusted ratings, with further improvement not ruled out, either.

Mucho Gusto reopposes here after opening his top-level account at Gulfstream Park, forging clear in the straight to win by four and a half lengths. That proved a below-par renewal of that race following a couple of late defections, though, and he will probably need to improve on the bare form of that effort to play a leading role here, with stablemate McKinzie appealing as perhaps Bob Baffert's best chance of success. The five-year-old is another high-class performer on his day, especially over this sort of trip, with his stamina appearing stretched over the extra furlong of the Breeders' Cup Classic last time, when finishing four and a quarter lengths in the wake of Vino Rosso.

The US challenge is completed by Midnight Bisou (Steve Asmussen) and Tacitus (Bill Mott). The latter has plenty to find with several of these on the formbook, but Midnight Bisou is a definite player if reproducing her best form from a productive 2019 campaign. Unbeaten in her first seven starts that season, she produced a typically determined effort when finding only one too good in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on her final outing, and, behind only Maximum Security on our weight-adjusted ratings, the 4 lb she receives from the males here puts her right in the mix.

New on Betting.Betfair – Betslip

You can now bet without leaving Betting.Betfair with our brand new on-site betslip for Exchange markets. You'll see the Exchange back and lay prices at the end of articles - simply login and place your bets as you would do on the main Exchange site

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open your account today using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn - £/€20 Back in cash if your bet loses
Bet Now

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles