Baffert tackles Saudi Cup challenge with 'experienced crew'

February 10, 2020 10:48am

Trainer Bob Baffert says that anytime you ship horses as far as the Middle East, “it’s a challenge.”

But it’s notable that as at least five American horses are prepared for the $20 million Saudi Cup, four hail from barns that have won a Dubai World Cup. That includes Baffert’s pair of McKinzie and Mucho Gusto.

“I like challenges, so we’ll see how we do,” Baffert said. “We have experience running over there in Dubai.”

U.S.-based horses will take a Feb. 18 flight overseas for the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup card, worth $29.2 million in purses overall. Trainer Peter Miller, another Dubai World Cup night winner, plans to have a number of contenders on a lucrative undercard before America is also represented by Midnight Bisou (Steve Asmussen) and Tacitus (Bill Mott) in the main event.

Running in this part of the world, however, be a new experience for trainer Jason Servis, who sends potential Saudi Cup favorite Maximum Security.

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Mott won the inaugural Dubai World Cup with Cigar in 1996. Asmussen took the 2008 running with Curlin. And Baffert got his third World Cup in 2017 with Arrogate’s memorable last-to-first performance.

Baffert plans to attend the inaugural Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack. As far as those headed over early with his horses, he said, “We have a very experienced crew.”

A 5-year-old by Street Sense, McKinzie didn’t miss the exacta last season while running exclusively in Grade 1 and Grade 2 races. He enters off a layoff dating back to the Breeders’ Cup Classic but shows a steady work tab since mid-December, breezing 5/8 on Wednesday in 1:01.20.

Mucho Gusto, a 4-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man, ended his layoff with a career-best performance in the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup (G1). While the race was watered down by the defections of Omaha Beach and Spun to Run, Mucho Gusto registered a 107 Beyer Speed Figure.

“They’re both doing excellent,” Baffert said. “Mucho Gusto, it’s amazing the way he’s changed. He’s come out of it really well.”

Formerly owned by Michael Lund Petersen, Mucho Gusto won a trio of Grade 3 races last season to go with Grade 1 placings in the Haskell and Travers. After a fourth in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) to end his campaign, Saudi Arabian interests came calling for a horse to run in the world's richest horse race.

Mucho Gusto competed for the first time in the Pegasus in the colors of Prince Faisal Bin Khaled.

“I told the guy he’d have to come to a ridiculous price if he wanted him, and he did,” Baffert said. “That was that. It’s going to work out for them.”

Mucho Gusto’s Pegasus score came at 1 1/8 miles, the same distance as the Saudi Cup — only this next race will begin in a lengthy chute and run around one turn.

“I think that’ll help a horse like McKinzie,” Baffert said.

The other American runners also show recent works. Tacitus went 5/8 of a mile last Monday in 1:03 at the Payston Park training center in Flirida; Maximum Security drilled an easy half mile in 52.40 seconds Thursday at the Palm Meadows training center; and Midnight Bisou put in five furlongs Sunday at Fair Grounds in 1:00.20.

2020 Saudi Cup


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