As Saudi Cup shapes up, TV and American betting details arrive

February 06, 2020 11:50am

Initial Saudi Cup day fields unveiled this week included six American horses in the $20 million main event, reigniting interest in the Feb. 29 race — but also raising two key questions.

Where can Americans watch, and will they be able to bet?

Tom Ryan, director of strategy and international racing for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, told Horse Racing Nation that Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 will team to air the Saudi Cup and its undercard.

FS1 is scheduled to air the main event, a 1 1/8-mile race with the likes of Maximum Security, McKinzie and Midnight Bisou. FS2 will broadcast the remainder of the card, which consists of the $1.5 million Saudia Sprint that lists Imperial Hint and Shancelot, among others, as probable.

TVG is also expected to air the Saudi Cup undercard races. The feature will be shown exclusively on FS1.

Ryan said “extensive wagering arrangements” are also underway, and that “all the big operators are looking to get involved.” In a cultural similarity to Dubai, betting isn’t permitted on track at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Racetrack but will be permitted in countries where legal.

“Wagering on the race won’t be any problem, I’d suggest,” Ryan said for U.S. viewers.

Graded stakes winners Mucho Gusto and Tacitus are other U.S. horses on the Saudi Cup list, which Ryan described as horses whose “invitations have been accepted.”

“Within reason, I would expect all of them to run,” he said. “One exception that we’re aware of in terms of the big race is that the connections of Gift Box are leaning toward what they consider a more acceptable domestic target.”

Trainer John Sadler is likely to keep Gift Box in California for the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap (G1), dropping the current Saudi Cup field to 10 runners. Ryan said the goal is to see 12 international horses in the gate alongside a pair of local horses, meaning more invitations will be on their way.

One of the Saudi-based runners will be plucked from Saturday’s “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” day program at King Abdulaziz Racetrack; it appears Mucho Gusto, purchased by Prince Faisal Bin Khalid Bin Abdulaziz before winning the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup (G1), could also count as a domestic contender.

Ryan declined to share which horses are next on the international invitation list, saying that information is being kept “in house.” Phil Smith, former handicapper for the British Horseracing Authority, assigned ratings to nominated horses, and Saudi Cup officials will continue moving down that ranking when determining who’s eligible.

“It’s a straight system,” Ryan said. “There’s no sort of, ‘Let this horse in because he’s friends of somebody.’ The best horse gets the chance.”

Ryan added that the Grade 1 winner Math Wizard, whose trainer, Saffie Joseph Jr., recently called the qualifying system “a little bit of a farce,” remains unlikely to make the field. In terms of ratings, Saudi Cup officials are sorting through a group of horses in the 115 range, while Math Wizard, upset winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) last fall, is around a 112 or 113.

Other Americans listed to run on Saudi Cup day are in the Sprint (Captain Scotty, Engage, Flagstaff); 
$1 million Neom Turf Cup (Mo Forza); $1 million Turf Sprint (Ghoul); and $800,000 Saudi Derby (Billy Batts, Rowdy Yates).

Ryan said a plane leaving Feb. 18 is scheduled to carry U.S. horses to Saudi Arabia.

2020 Saudi Cup


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