Knicks Go or Charlatan?- 2021 Saudi Cup Preview

Saturday marks the second running of the world’s richest race! The $20 million Saudi Cup will be one and 1/8 miles and will be run on Saturday at 11:40 AM CT at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The race is for horses four years old and up. There are 14 horses in the field this year. Last year’s winner was Maximum Security. 

Aside from seeing the matchup between Knicks Go and Charlatan, this race is so intriguing because there are so many horses from different countries. That’s also what makes it so difficult to compare horses. There’s no uniform speed ratings or tracking figures among all of the horses. That’s why the rankings below are just my own rankings based upon what I’ve researched and put together, not based off of any comparative metrics.

Knicks Go and Charlatan will be the two favorites squaring off on Saturday. Knicks Go is coming off a Pegasus Win on January 23rd and of course last year’s Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile. He was clearly the best horse in both of those races, but he will see some different opponents in this one.

Charlatan would’ve been a contender in the triple crown races and Breeder’s Cup last year if not for a minor ankle injury. He’s had just won race since coming back; it was an impressive win on December 26th in the Grade I Runhappy Malibu Stakes. Below we see the speed figures of those top five American horses for the Saudi Cup in their past three races.

Again, for Charlatan looking at any start other than his last doesn’t mean much as it was so long ago. Sleepy Eyes Todd is longshot who may be able to reach that kind of speed seen on a regular basis from Knicks Go and Charlatan.

Max Player was the only horse to race in the Belmont, Kentucky Derby, Travers and Preakness last year – and he finished between 3rd and 5th in all of them. He is a deep closer and if the longer distance of 1 1/8 miles tires out Knicks Go and Charlatan he may be able to benefit down the stretch. He was supposed to be ridden by Umberto Rispoli, but with travel issues it will now be Mickaël Barzalona. Tacitus is consistently in the mix, but hasn’t shown that ability to run good enough to knock off these top horses, but it’s likely he could hit the board or finish near the middle of the pack. He did run in this race last year, finishing 5th. He’ll also deal with a recent jockey switch, it will now be William Buick aboard instead of John Velasquez.

International Entries

Mishriff finished 8th in his last, but won each of the three starts previous to that and finished 2nd in the Saudi Derby last year. He switched to dirt for the first time a year ago and like a lot of these international horses, might be better on the turf. He tends to break slow out of the gate and falling too far behind Knicks Go and Charlatan is a big concern here.

Chuwa Wizard is making his first start of 2021 here. He was the Japan Racing Association’s dirt champion of 2020. He will be Japan’s only runner in this race. He could hit the board here, but the draw from the rail could be tough.

Military Law is coming off an impressive come from behind win in the Al Maktoum Challenge round one in Dubai on January 21st. He keeps jockey Antonio Fresu aboard for the sixth straight race. There may be too much speed from the American horses, but Military Law is one of the more interesting international entries.

Bangkok finished first in the Winter Derby trial Stakes at Lingfield Park on February 6th. He will keep the same jockey Ryan Moore, aboard here. But he has only run on turf and synthetic surface before, this will be his first real dirt race. Many analysts say he has no chance in this one.

Simsir was bred in Ireland and now races primarily in Bahrain. He’s coming off a big upset win in the Bahrain International Trophy over another horse in this field, Global Giant.

Speaking of Global Giant, although he was out-closed by Simsir in his last, he’s won two of his last four races. He’s used to running a bit longer races than this and may be better suited on turf, but we’ll see how he handles the dirt here.

Derevo won the King’s Cup in his last on this track over a mile and 1/4, so he cuts back to a shorter distance here. He has a similar style to Tacitus trying to run late, but he hasn’t faced competition like this before.

Extra Elusive will be ridden by Hollie Doyle for the fifth straight start. Coming off of a sixth place finish back in Mid-October, but did win a pair of grade 3’s last summer. That being said, a finish in the money seems unlikely here.

Great Scot finished 12th in this race last year in his Dirt debut. He was incredibly overmatched and I can’t imagine it’s much better this year.

Quick Wrap Up and Betting:

My Bets: 5, 9 Exacta Box

Superfecta: 5-9-7-8

The American horses are the clearly the ones to beat. If anyone wins not named Knicks Go or Charlatan would be a huge upset. Tacitus is consistently in the mix, but to knock off either of those two here would be tremendous. I’m excited to watch this one, but not sure there’s a ton of betting value. I could see Chuwa Wizard, Mishriff or Military Law hitting the board from the international side, but it’s going to take a lot from them.

Knicks Go wins the Pegasus in his last
Charlatan wins the Runhappy Malibu in his last

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