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Saudi Cup 2023: Looking back at last week's running of the world's richest race

The Dettori machine powers on

It was a temporary removal from his new stomping ground. But for Racing Breaks ambassador Frankie Dettori, the rollercoaster is poised on an undisputed incline. Four winners on Santa Anita's 18th February card and, no surprise, for this scorching, impulsive Italian, self-appointed retirement at the 2023 Breeders Cup... well, might no longer be the plan. On Country Grammer in Riyadh, last year's Dubai World Cup victor (who enjoyed subsequent success at Santa Anita on Boxing Day), Dettori's late attack left him nudged to runner up.

Crowley's efforts come to fruition

Dettori winnings did, however, come through on Elite Power in the earlier Dirt Sprint. Asked to describe his Juddmonte mount, Frankie's first word was "aeroplane." "I asked him to get a little closer," he went on, "the turbo kicked in, and I was just a passenger." In subsequent European prowess, while Lord North was taking all in Lingfield's Winter Derby, Mostahdaf was catching further Gosden spoils in the Neom Turf Cup. "Clearly he loves fast ground, and at five he’s matured," said fellow Racing Breaks ambassador Jim Crowley, who took the ride. "He looks exciting, and he’s a very well-bred horse. I’m hoping he can step up to Group 1 company, and I'd imagine that, if he comes out of Saudi in good shape, we’ll go to Dubai."

Japan's night under the stars

Country Grammer outdone another year, US $10m of the US $20m purse heads not to California, but (for the first time) to Japan. With Panthalassa taking the Cup, and Yutaka Yoshida pushing forward, riding to the inside two furlongs out, the Japanese emergence shines on. "Japanese racing has become more international," said a smiling winning trainer, Yoshito 'man-in-the-hat' Yahagi. "You know, this is not easy. Japanese racing tries everything to improve and develop." Last year at Meydan, Panthalassa dead-heated with Lord North in the Dubai Turf. On Saturday, four time zones apart, about £16m stood between them. Revenge, for Panthalassa - and the Japanese - must surely be sweet.

Way to go for racing's Super Bowl

Japan, indeed, after three scores at last year's meeting, had four of the five front finishing horses in 2023's search for 'dollars in the desert' (this is only the second year the Saudi Cup has been run as a Group 1). Last year's winner, Emblem Road, made sixth, and Bob Baffert's Taiba only eighth. Under the lights of the capital, Dubai World Cup night this is not (yet, anyway). But, presumably following neighbour Bahrain's lead, and shipping in a cohort of international broadcasters, with a crowd of 20,000, King Abdulaziz Racecourse clearly has auspicious sights on the manifestation of something similar. Japan, it seems, is not alone in wishing them luck on that journey.


For 2023


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