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2021 Saudi Cup Workouts

Exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard Charlatan exchanges a fist bump with the pony rider on Friday morning.
Date: 2/19/2021

On Friday morning in Riyadh, entrants for the second running of the $20 million Saudi Cup and its rich undercard were at King Abdulaziz Racetrack on the main track. This morning the skies were mostly cloudy with temperatures down in the low 50's during training hours. The races will be run Saturday evening (Saturday morning in North America), with the Saudi Cup going to post at 8:40pm local time (12:40pm ET). In North America the full card will be broadcast live on TVG in the USA and HPI in Canada, as well as on FOX Sports 1 from 8am-1pm ET. The Saudi Cup will be contested at 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) around one turn of the 1 1/4 mile main track.

The sun peeking through the clouds at Riyadh on Friday morning.

Due to issues surrounding COVID testing, American jockeys Umberto Rispoli and John Velazquez were not allowed to travel to Riyadh. Rispoli said, "Today I was ready to fly, my luggage was already on the plane, I was in my seat, my seatbelt was fastened, and before we took off, the stewards came and took me off the plane, saying in Riyadh at that moment, exactly that moment, there was a change in the rule in the COVID test." Velazquez said, "I tested negative four times this week to make it to the Saudi Cup but never made it anywhere, because flights canceled or wrong alternatives."

Mike Smith will replace Velazquez in the International Jockey Challenge. Mickael Barzalona will replace Rispoli aboard Max Player in the Saudi Cup, while William Buick picks up the mount on Tacitus. In addition, Joel Rosario picks up Velazquez' rides on Urban Icon (Turf Sprint) and New York Central (Dirt Sprint), and Rispoli's assignment aboard Cowan (Saudi Derby). Rosario rides Knicks Go in the main event.

Here are photos and comments for 14 horses that were out Friday morning plus some scenic photos. Please click the smaller photos to see a larger version.

Charlatan (Saudi Cup) completed his preparations on Friday morning for the 1800m race by standing in the starting gate under his regular morning partner Humberto Gomez. Once backed out, the pair completed a circuit of the dirt track. When asked to assess the trip into the starting gate, Bob Baffert's longtime assistant Jimmy Barnes said, "Perfect. We've been here the longest of anybody. The weather has been very pleasant this year. It's been very easy."

Global Giant (Saudi Cup) galloped on Friday morning. Assistant trainer Thady Gosden said: "They went for a canter on the main track this morning, and fortunately everything was straightforward. They seem to be well in themselves, and I hope everything goes smoothly leading up to the race."

Knicks Go (Saudi Cup), who galloped a spirited 1600m on Friday morning under assistant trainer Dustin Dugas, is ready for Saturday on the heels of a resounding success in the Pegasus World Cup. Dugas said, "He loves to train and is so difficult to handle sometimes, but he has a lot of talent, obviously, and is sitting on a big race. He's very, very fast and is extremely tough."

Mishriff (Saudi Cup) galloped again with jockey David Egan aboard Mishriff. Egan said, "Similar to last year, Mishriff has been thriving since he arrived here in Riyadh. He seems to really enjoy the style of training and the surface here in Saudi Arabia. He looks amazing, feels fresh and has been moving fluently up to the race."

Ted Voute, racing manager to Mishriff's owner/breeder Prince A A Faisal, added: "Mishriff looks stronger again since I saw him in Newmarket at the end of last year and he has travelled extremely well. He has thrived over the winter. He looks well and ready for the race.

Sleepy Eyes Todd (Saudi Cup) came onto the dirt track at the usual time on Friday morning. His rider José Sandoval, who is trainer Miguel Angel Silva's assistant, was on board and he said: "I just jogged him one lap. He is well, ready for the big day."

Tacitus (Saudi Cup) stood in the starting gate Friday morning under assistant trainer Neil Poznansky, who has piloted the 5-year-old grey horse throughout his stay. Poznansky gave a thumbs up after the pair was backed out of the gate. Fifth in the inaugural edition of the Saudi Cup, trainer Bill Mott is hopeful that having a year more growth and maturity under his belt will help ensure a better placing than in 2020. "He's a year older and he's stronger," Mott said from the United States on Thursday evening. "We think he's more ready for the challenge. We know it's a good field, a competitive field but we think he belongs and we're optimistic about his chances."

Arctic Sound (Red Sea Turf Handicap) galloped early in the morning. He finished 9th last out in the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Cup, the main local prep for the Saudi Cup.

Gifts of Gold (Red Sea Turf Handicap) and Soft Whisper (Saudi Derby) on Friday morning. The team behind Godolphin's talented UAE 1000 Guineas-winning filly Soft Whisper watched as the daughter of Dubawi cantered a lap of the dirt course, following yard-mate Gifts of Gold, who contests the Red Sea Turf Handicap. "She looks good today," said Ricardo Corona, assistant trainer to Saeed bin Suroor. "It was good to see Doug's filly (Mnasek) win last night. We are glad to have (jockey) Mike Smith on her (in the race), who is a great dirt rider."

For The Top (Neom Turf Cup) galloped early on Friday morning. Third last year, he is expected to be a pacesetter again this year. I don’t think it’s a good idea to change anything or fix anything from last year, because he ran so well," trainer Salem bin Ghadayer said. "We tried to take him back before off the pace and it did not work, to be honest. It’s his style. We’re going to send him and we’re going to see what happens."

Star of Wins (Neom Turf Cup) galloped early on Friday morning. He finished 12th of 18 in the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Cup last out.

Rebel's Romance (Saudi Derby) cantered a lap of the dirt track with stable-mates Secret Advisor and Space Blues. Trainer Charlie Appleby said: "They had an easy canter round. They are all relaxed and they have all eaten up. We're looking forward to tomorrow now."

Space Blues (Turf Sprint) cantered a lap of the dirt track behind stable-mates Secret Advisor and Rebel's Romance.

Glorious Journey (Turf Sprint) remained on the training track on Friday. Trainer Charlie Appleby said: "Glorious Journey once again stayed on the training track. It suits him there. He can get a bid revved on the main track."

The grandstand with the international flags flying on Friday morning.

The view down the track from the starting gate on Friday morning.

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