Led by multiple year champions Essential Quality and Monomoy Girl, as well as the two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Knicks Go, trainer Brad Cox knows what it’s like to have quality in his barn. In the lightly raced 3-year-old Saudi Crown , the Louisville native looks to find lightning in a bottle once again.
A son of the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, Saudi Crown still has everything to prove. The handsome roan colt has only made four career starts and has yet to win a stakes race, but he certainly looks to be on the verge of bigger and better things.
On Saturday, he’ll have the chance to make his initial stakes win a big one when he lines up for the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx.
When last seen, Saudi Crown raised his reputation by turning in a strong performance in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on July 29. In his first race around two turns, he brought home second-place money after losing by a scant nose to the champion Forte in a roughly run stretch drive under rider Florent Geroux.
Not only did he just miss against some of the best sophomores in the land, but he showed plenty of heart down the lane after flashing his customary early speed. It was a performance that could have landed him a prominent spot in the starting gate of the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1), but Cox refused to push the talented colt and stuck to the plan of waiting for the signature event at Parx.
Owned by FMQ Stables, Saudi Crown did not race in 2022. A $240,000 2-year-old in training purchase at Ocala in April, he did not make his first start until a full year after his purchase. While most of the top contenders had already run their final prep for this year’s Kentucky Derby, he was still an unraced maiden.
After taking plenty of time to finally make it to the races, his connections would not have to wait long for his first win. Saudi Crown stalked and pounced in a 6-furlong maiden race at Keeneland on April 16, winning his debut by 4 3/4-lengths in fast time.
The impressive maiden winner came back five weeks later and set the pace in route to his second career victory. This time it was a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs facing older horses for the first time. Once again, Saudi Crown ran fast in the win.
Stretched out to a flat mile at Belmont Park for his stakes debut on July 1, he would lose for the first time but was valiant in defeat. Facing off with the heavily favored and far more experienced Fort Bragg down the stretch, Saudi Crown would never succumb. After setting all the fast fractions, he fought on all the way to the wire, only losing by a nose.
Much like his defeat in the subsequent Jim Dandy, Saudi Crown had demonstrated a big heart in defeat. All told, he has turned in four strong performances in as many tries and has done so at different tracks and distances each time.
Saudi Crown is only two noses away from a perfect record, but he is also still in search of that elusive first stakes win.
In the Pennsylvania Derby, the likely favorite should face a big field with plenty of early speed. In other words, he will be tested once again. A win here and we can start talking about him as one of the top sophomores in the land.
With two sharp works at his home base of Churchill Downs, Saudi Crown looks ready for another strong effort. We will see on Saturday if skipping the Travers to wait for the Pennsylvania Derby will pay off.
Cox is high on this one, and with as much success as the 43-year-old has enjoyed in the last five years, it makes sense to listen. Whether it be as soon as Saturday or a little farther down the road, the future of Saudi Crown looks very bright indeed.