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Horse racing in Saudi Arabia, Dubai draw attention over weekend –



1 of 2 | Romantic Warrior wins the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup and sets bid for Hong Kong Horse of the Year honors. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club

Feb. 26 (UPI) — The Saudi Cup, a potential new champion in Hong Kong and the Dubai World Cup Carnival contributed to the global horse racing scene during the weekend.

Along the way, Lord North got his warmup run as he heads toward a shot at a fourth straight victory in the Dubai Turf on March 30.

Saudi Arabia

Anyone wondering why Ryan Moore is the reigning “world’s best jockey” need only look at the replay of Saturday’s $2.5 million Group 3 Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap on the Saudi Cup undercard.

Moore was up on the favorite, Tower of London, for the usual suspects, the Coolmore “lads” and trainer Aidan O’Brien, who previously were not supporters of the Saudi program. At the top of the stretch, it looked like Tower of London was doomed by traffic problems.

Moore to the rescue. Altering course several times in search of daylight, Moore finally got the 4-year-old Galileo colt out to daylight but seemingly too late. Then, the colt and the rider worked magic, made up all the ground and won by a head.

M.V. Magnier, speaking for “the Lads,” said, “Ryan said he was going to take his time. He’s pretty cool, relaxed and nothing fazes him.”

Spirit Dancer swept past the leaders in the final furlong to win the $2 million Neom Turf Cup, backing up his victory last November in the Group 2 Bahrain International Trophy. — was second as the early leaders, Jack Darcy and Luxembourg, surrendered rather meekly through the final sixteenth.

Regular rider Oisin Orr piloted the 7-year-old Frankel gelding for trainer Richard Fahey.

Annaf got through an opening along the rail in the stretch, took the lead and held on to win the $2 million Grade 2 1351 Turf Sprint by 1 1/2 lengths over Japanese long shot La La Christine.

Annaf, a 5-year-old gelding trained in England by Mick Appleby, ended 2023 with two straight wins, then took the all-weather option to prep for Saudi, finishing second Feb. 4 at Lingfield Park. Rossa Ryan had the mount for Appleby.

Two races on the dirt found the cup of victory dashed from the lips of American connections.

In the $1.5 million Saudi Derby, Forever Young, billed as a budding Japanese superstar and a legitimate Kentucky Derby candidate, rallied from the clouds in the final furlong and just caught chief American hope, Book’em Danno, in the final strides. Another U.S. runner, Bentornato, finished third.

The dramatic, wide rally after a rough start left Forever Young undefeated after four starts but without credentials for the Kentucky Derby field. Trainer Yoshito Yahagi said he hopes to remedy that in the Group 2 UAE Derby in Dubai on March 30, which ensures the winner, and perhaps the runner-up, a shot at Louisville.

One race after Book’em Danno’s disappointment, American connections suffered another, again at the hands of the Japanese legion, as Skelly’s seven-race winning streak ended with a second-place finish in the $1.5 million Grade III Riyadh Dirt Sprint.

The Practical Joke gelding looked to have the race in the bag at mid-stretch, but was caught by Remake in the final sixteenth and defeated by 1 1/2 lengths.


Friday night’s edition of the World Cup Carnival turned up a likely candidate for the Kentucky Oaks in the unlikely form of Manama Gold — a Louisiana-bred daughter of the underappreciated stire Star Guitar.

Manama Gold ran her record to 3-for-3 with a front-running victory in the Grade III UAE Oaks, earning 50 points on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” leaderboard, enough to virtually guarantee a spot in the Louisville starting gate.

The 3-year-old race featuring males, the Al Bastakiya, lacked a few of Dubai’s most promising 3-year-olds who await the Grade 2 UAE Derby on World Cup (G1) night.

But the winner, Killer Instinct, ran well enough in outgaming Argentinian Auto Bahn to earn a trip to the local Derby — also a qualifier for Louisville.

Godolphin won both turf features, but with relative long shots, and trainer Charlie Appleby said those horses are more likely to be seen later in Europe than on World Cup night.


Military Order got first run to the lead in Saturday’s Group 3 Winter Derby on the Southwell Racecourse all-weather track and held off Lord North to win by 1 length.

The Godolphin 4-year-old, a son of Frankel, is 2-for-3 on the all-weather. The race is Lord North’s designated prep for the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night — a race he has won three years in a row.

The now 8-year-old Lord North made only two starts in 2023 — a 3 1/4-length victory in the Winter Derby, which was run then at Lingfield, and the Dubai Turf. In 2022, he finished second in the Winter Derby, then dead-heated for the Dubai win with Panthalassa, who went on to win the 2023 Saudi Cup. His 2021 victory was Lord North’s only start that year.

Hong Kong

It’s almost impossible to think Romantic Warrior won’t end Golden Sixty’s three-year reign as Hong Kong Horse of the Year at season’s end.

Romantic Warrior dug deep to win Sunday’s Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup over a stubborn Voyage Bubble, becoming only the third horse to sweep Hong Kong’s trio of Group 1 2,000-meter races. Vengeance of Rain and Designs on Rome are the only others.

He also has to his credit during the 2023-24 season the Longines Hong Kong Cup in December and a history-making victory in the Group 1 Cox Plate in Australia in October.

Golden Sixty, now 8, hasn’t done anything wrong this season. He just hasn’t done enough.

He did not start until December and dramatically won the Longines Hong Kong Mile first up. But then what was described as a “minor leg injury” sidelined him from training.

He hasn’t raced since and if plans are in place to do so, they have not been announced. This always was to be his final season anyway.

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