A field of 13 was drawn February 22 in Riyadh for the $20-million G1 Saudi Cup, to be contested over 1800 meters under the lights Saturday at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in the Saudi capital. The race is set to go off just after noon (Eastern) on Feb. 25, and will be shown on TSN1 in Canada. As of Thursday morning, HPIBet.com was not offering wagering on the Saudi Cup races.

Bob Baffert trainees COUNTRY GRAMMER (Tonalist) and TAIBA (Gun Runner) plus the 2022 Saudi Cup winner EMBLEM ROAD (Quality Road) headline the field.

Country Grammer was runner-up in this race last year to Emblem Road and went on to win the Dubai World Cup (G1) next out. He will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, who also rode the 6-year-old to a 4 1/2-length win in the Dec. 26 San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita.

Taiba is coming off a 4 1/2-length win in the Dec. 26 Malibu (G1) after he finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He will be ridden by Mike Smith, who has been aboard for all but one of his seven career starts.

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia released the following notes on Wednesday in preparation for its flagship event, the $20 million Saudi Cup on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.

Cafe Pharoah (JPN) – Last year’s best dirt horse in Japan, Cafe Pharoah, galloped for 800m with his race rider Joao Moreira. Naoto Suzuki, assistant to trainer Noriyuki Hori, was satisfied after watching the breeze, saying: “He had a good gallop as we planned. Joao told me he was stretching his legs well towards the finish and he still had plenty of energy. I might take him for a paddock schooling tomorrow but all options are open to him.”

Country Grammer (USA) and Taiba (USA) – The Bob Baffert-trained duo of Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer and triple Grade 1 winner Taiba each had an easy day on Wednesday. Owned fully or in part by Zedan Racing, the pair will seek to make principal owner Amr Zedan the first to win both the Dubai World Cup and The Saudi Cup.

“They are going well and we’re happy,” said assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes. “We just jogged today on the training track, which is close to the barn. We will go to the main track on Thursday.”

Baffert also sends out Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s Havnameltdown on Saturday, hoping to win a second consecutive Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group after Pinehurst’s success in 2022. The San Vicente Stakes winner did the same as his stablemates on Wednesday. All three breezed on Monday and tack-walked on Tuesday.

Crown Pride (JPN) – Koichi Shintani’s Crown Pride had a gallop on the dirt track under jockey Yuga Kawada.

Masafumi Matsuda, assistant trainer to Shintani said: “Although Yuga is not riding him in The Saudi Cup, he was happy to help us in breezing him. After riding Yuga told me Crown Pride responded well to rider’s direction and he also was handling the surface very well.”

Emblem Road (USA) and Scotland Yard (USA) – The pair were once again among the first horses to appear at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Wednesday morning. The Mitab Almulawah-trained pair are prominent in the thoughts of locals and continued their preparations with trackwork at 3am.

“We are very happy with both horses, they are both in good condition. Emblem Road was very good when he won last month and that was a perfect race for him as we didn’t want to start him in a Group race as we want to protect our horse for the big races. Last time when he won he was maybe 90 per cent, but now he is amazing! He is still our favorite for sure,” stable representative Hisham Abdulwahed said.

“Scotland Yard’s homework from the very beginning has always impressed us so much and he is a beautiful horse. He came here about five months ago and he has been amazing since then.”

Geoglyph (JPN) – Galloped for 1000m on the dirt track.

“He travelled well and is getting familiarised with the new surroundings. I am glad he is in good form and has been the same as what he was at home. We will see how he is and decide tomorrow’s training plan,” trainer Tetsuya Kimura said.

Jun Light Bolt (JPN) – Jun Light Bolt started his career as a turf horse but switched to dirt last summer. Having only four starts on dirt since then, he has won three races including the Grade 3 Sirius Stakes and Grade 1 Champions Cup, an automatic qualifying race for The Saudi Cup.

Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said: “After the Champions Cup last December, he had a short break at Northern Farm and came back to my barn in mid-January. Since then I have been tuning him up towards The Saudi Cup by giving him weekly fast work. His last gallop before leaving home was extremely satisfactory. I only needed some conditioning work here before the race and he did it this morning. Ryan Moore is going to ride him this week to have a first-time contact with the horse.”

Panthalassa (JPN) – Internationally-minded trainer Yoshito Yahagi was on hand to see Panthalassa breeze with his two stablemates Bathlat Leon, a runner in the 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc, and Continuar, who goes for the Saudi Derby presented by Boutique Group, on the dirt track under his assistant, Yusaku Oka.

“He is a very good traveller. He handled the long trip from Japan without any issue this time as well and seems to be enjoying his stay in Saudi Arabia,” Yahagi said.

“He ran on dirt one time in Japan in his career but did not finish well. However, as the dirt surface is very different here at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, I have no worries. Competing in The Saudi Cup, for me, is a great opportunity to win the biggest money in the world.”

Remorse (IRE) – Al Rashid Stables’ contender made his first appearance on the track on Wednesday morning, having an easy hack around the 2000m dirt course under assistant trainer Caroline Seemar, wife to reigning UAE champion conditioner, Bhupat.

The six-year-old gelded son of Dubawi arrived on Tuesday afternoon with banner-mate Freedom Fighter, who contests the Riyadh Dirt Sprint presented by Sports Boulevard.

Sunset Flash (IRE) and Lagertha Rhyme (IRE) – “We have had the same kind of routine and preparation with my mares,” trainer Naif Almindeel said.

“No problems, very happy and calm. They have had great careers for us in Saudi Arabia and it is a tremendous honour to have runners in the world’s most valuable race.”

Vin de Garde (JPN) – Worked for one and a half laps on the dirt track and galloped for 800m under jockey Yuichi Fukunaga.

“He looks very well and worked beautifully today. The jockey said that the dirt track was very cushioned and seems to be suitable to him,” Kazuo Fujiwara, assistant to trainer Hideaki Fujiwara, said.

In the Riyadh Dirt Sprint, trainer Bill Mott has two strong chances.

Fresh off a victory with Saudi Cup alumnus Art Collector in last month’s Pegasus World Cup, Mott seeks more big race glory with Juddmonte’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Elite Power (USA) and LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s Casa Creed (USA)

Mott’s right-hand man accompanying his international travellers over the past few years has been assistant trainer and exercise rider Neil Poznansky, who was aboard for the final serious workouts on Tuesday morning at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

Having arrived on Friday with a couple of days on the track to acclimate, the pair appeared comfortable in their 600m blowout breezes down the stretch.

The Saudi Cup-G1, $20,000,000, 4yo/up, 1800m (in post position order)

1–Panthalassa (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn})

2–Taiba (Gun Runner)

3–Crown Pride (Jpn) (Reach the Crown {Jpn})

4–Scotland Yard (Quality Road)

5–Sunset Flash (Ire) (Mayson {GB}) (f)

6–Jun Light Bolt (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn})

7–Remorse (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire})

8–Emblem Road (Quality Road)

9–Vin de Garde (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn})

10–Country Grammer (Tonalist)

11-Lagertha Rhyme (Ire) (Gutaifan {Ire}) (f)

12–Geoglyph (Jpn) (Drefong)

13–Cafe Pharoah (American Pharoah)