The world’s most valuable race, the Saudi Cup, has been run for another year, and this edition has been won by Japan, with Panthalassa taking out the $20 million feature.
The 6YO Lord Kanaloa x Miss Pemberley product, trained by Yoshito Yahagi and ridden by Yukata Yoshida, became the fourth nation's representative to win Group One.
It was a close victory (3/4 length), and as was the case in 2022, the now two-time Group One winning country, England, was left to finish second.
American trainer Bob Baffert will have to return next year in the fifth running of the Saudi Cup with hopes of finally capturing the purse, having now taken three seconds and a fourth-place finish.
In the Group Three Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Sports Boulevard, retiring hoop Frankie Dettori got a fitting farewell to what he referred to as "the world’s best dirt track" last month by winning onboard Elite Power.
Dettori unleashed the lethal turn of foot his mount possesses after settling with 200m remaining, demonstrating his ability is on a different level than his competitors.
When speaking post-race in the colours of Juddmonte, who had become synonymous with racing, you could tell what it meant to the legendary hoop.
"My first word has to be aeroplane." I was a little out of reach and asked him to get a little closer, and then the turbo just kicked in, and I was a passenger then.
"The Abdullah family has given so much to the sport; the legacy keeps going." "I love these colors, and it’s nice to give the locals something to cheer about."
The five-year-old was a class act, winning by more than three lengths for trainer William Mott.
Last season, the Curlin x Broadway's Alibi entire won the Breeders' Cup Sprint by one and a half lengths, and his performance this morning was just as impressive as he beat out another American in runner Gunite (USA).
The win made it three Group company victories in the last year, having won a Group Two at Aqueduct by nearly six lengths before the Keeneland Group One in November of last year.
In the final stages of the Group Three Saudi Derby, the odds-on favourite for the card was left beaten, turning heads and receiving roaring applause from the audience.
Havnameltdown came to Saudi Arabia to take out the Derby for trainer Bob Baffert, and before the gates opened, he firmed up as the odds-on favorite.
However, breaking hearts on the line was the locally trained colt, Commissioner King, in an absolute thriller.
Frankie Dettori, riding Havnameltdown, tried to hold off Luis Morales' challenge, turning the two-horse fight into a true equine street brawl.
Abdulaziz Alyousef, representing the winner’s owners, FMQ Stable, said that the race would be remembered for a long time.
"That was history. You will never see a better duel between two amazing horses than this one. That will be watched over and over for a very long time.
"He is the first horse that we bought at FMQ Stables for the owner Faisal Mohammed Alqahtani, and he has won the Derby! It is beyond our wildest dreams! He has beaten Bob Baffert and the Japanese horses—people who don’t come here to compete, they come to win.
"The plan was to stay close to Havnameltdown and try to put him to the test in the straight.We felt he would run well, but we weren’t optimistic enough to think he would win. "It is just amazing."
Hoop Luis Morales said that he was proud of the performance of his mount.
"What a tough horse. It was an honour to ride in a race like that, and to come out on top is just the best. He was so tough; he kept wanting it, and we got there at the line.
The Longines Red Sea Turf had been set up as a competitive race with a deep field, and it delivered in spades.
For the second year in a row, the race was captured by the winners in the silks of Shadai Race Horse Co. Ltd.
This year's winner was Japanese stayer Silver Sonic, who was piloted home by Australian hoopster Damian Lane.
Getting out of the gates, the eye-catching grey homebred son of Orfevre settled in the perfect position behind a lead set by returning star Subjectivist (GB) and tracked by 2022 Ebor Handicap winner Trawlerman (IRE).
The race was a great contest, with the margin of victory being two-and-a-half lengths back to the Ian Williams-trained Enemy and three lengths ahead of the David O’Meara-trained Get Shirty in third.
Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee was happy with what was the first win of his training career in Riyadh.
"This might be the second win for Japan, but it is a first win for me. This is a tremendous accomplishment for me, and I am overjoyed.
"I didn't talk tactics with Damien today. He made his own plans, and we didn't discuss anything before the race. I brought Orfevre to the Arc twice, but he ran second on both occasions, so winning a big race abroad with Orfevre’s son is a great pleasure. My father trained Stay Gold, his dam’s sire, so the feeling of this victory is so special.
"I’m very grateful to the people of the JCSA who received us so well. Silver Sonic travelled over really well and kept his condition; he has been the same as he is at home. The following are some of the most common questions we receive.
Damian Lane was thankful for the trust he had from the trainer as well as his support base in Japan.
"I have had great support in Japan, especially from the Shadai Race Horse Club. I'm glad to be a part of it and will be glad to keep it going.
"He got off to a good start, which is always important."I was happy to track Subjectivist, who was always going to set a nice tempo and be a good horse to follow. I needed a bit of luck to get through, but once it opened up, he finished really well.
"We knew the distance wouldn't be a problem. I would never advise a trainer, but the Tenno Sho looks like a good option. It's a great privilege to be riding here and to be part of the meeting, let alone ride a winner. "I'm just grateful to be a part of it all; it’s a big thrill as a part of my career, and I'm really enjoying it."
The Neom Turf Cup was the card's standout race and performance, with Shadwell-owned and Gosden-trained Mostahdaf storming home by nearly seven lengths while also putting away the odds on favourite Missed The Cut from the start.
The son of Frankel showed his class once again by winning the race and blowing away the field, beating home Dubai Future.
The surge was on under Jim Crowley and with an explosive turn of foot as Mostahdaf devoured the ground, taking his fourth Group Three in the process.
Friday night opened up the Saudi Cup meeting, highlighted by the Group Two Al Mneefah Cup, which ran over 2100 metres and was worth $1 million.
Asfan Al Khalediah entered the race as the odds-on favourite and showed why, winning impressively with stablemate Bint Ghaliat Al Khalediah running second.
The other highlight for Friday was the International Jockey’s Challenge, run across four races: two on dirt and two on turf. The tournament brought together the top male and female riding talent.
The first race was won by eventual winner Luis Saez, who piloted home Wajaab, beating home the UK’s hope, Joanna Mason.
The race was not without drama, with Canadian hoop star Chantelle Sutherland being thrown from her mount halfway through the journey, though she appeared to be in good health afterward.
Saez, partnering the Hamad Al Rashad-trained Kareem, finished second as Joanna Mason crossed first onboard Medbaas, in a reversal of the first race.
Race five, the penultimate leg of the International Jockey Challenge, was run over 1200 metres on turf.The United Kingdom’s Joanna Mason and Panamanian hoop Luis Saez were locked in a tie with 25 points after having battled out the first two legs of the tournament.
Mason was riding Beehive for trainer Fawaz Alghareeban, while Saez was in the saddle for Expressionist, trained and owned by Naif Almandeel. In the end, it was Bauyrzhan Murgzabayev on Hiapipi Go Lucky who took the spoils.
The last race in the International Jockey Challenge, run over 2100 metres on turf, was set up to be the best leg of the tournament yet. The favourite in the race and the shortest for the card so far was Dettori’s mount, General Lee, trained by Abdah Alathaab.
the first furlong as Persian Moon took the lead with Homesick Boy in second place. They covered the first turn with the pace steady and the pacesetter maintaining the lead.
Into the straight, Luis Saez came out, with Starcat striking the lead under Yuda Kuwada, extending to win by four lengths.
Saez took out this year’s International Jockey Challenge by eight points over Yuga Kawada, with Joanna Mason in third.
Location King Abdulaziz Racetrack, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Distance 1,800 meters (about 9 furlongs), Winning horse Emblem Road, Winning time 1:50.52, Jockey Wigberto Ramos, Trainer Mitab Almulawah, Owner Prince Saud bin Salman Abdulaziz, Conditions Fast, Surface Dirt
Winner Race 2023