17 February 2023, KSA ~ The Saudi Cup weekend, now in its fourth year, has attracted a star list of horses, trainers and jockeys to the 2023 weekend and soon to retire, Frankie Dettori, will team up with last year’s runner-up Country Grammer in the $20 million Saudi Cup on what he considers is the “best dirt track in the world”.
The Arabians get their turn as the Saudi cup has upgraded the two Arabian races and they are now the $2Million Gr 1 Obaiya Classic, and the $1Million Gr 2 Al Mneefah Cup.
Obaiya Arabian Classic
The Obaiya Arabian Classic will be Race 2 at 4:25pm on 25 February. This year’s runners include the recently exported US, Hiab al Zaman that joins RB Rich Lyke Me from the Bahraini trainer, Fawzi Nass. These two will compete with recent winners, Rajeh (Musabbeh Al Mheiri) and Deryan (Majed al Jahoori) from the UAE, Samlla (Francois Rohaut) and Rysk Tout (Charles Gourdain) from France. Saudi Saad Mutlaq will send out five local horses bearing the Al Khalediah name.
The 2022 winner, Hadi de Carrere, under six-time French Champion Jockey Olivier Peslier, closed down the center of the track to win the Obaiya Classic by a nose in the time of 2:16.20.
Al Mneefah Cup
In the Al Mneefah Cup, top Arabian trainers Eric Lemartinel, Saad Mutlaq, Lucas Gaitan, Francois Rohaut, Philip Collington, Rudy Nerbonne, Sulaiman Al Ghunami, Alban De Mieulle, Elisabeth Bernard and Xavier Thomas-Demaulte have brought their best to the competition.
The 2022 winner, Arabian gelding First Classs’s win in the Al Mneefah Cup made the occasion an “extraordinary day” for Alban De Mieulle.
De Mieulle said of the then six-year-old: “I didn’t think First Classs would do so well. I knew he was a good horse and was in good form and he had been proven in America before but over short distances. When he came to me, he took a while to relax. For three or four months he was a little bit ‘on the bridle’, as we say in France. By the time of the Al Mneefah he had relaxed and I was confident that he would run well, but to win was a whole other thing.”
The quality of the Saudi track may have played a part in his success; De Mieulle was most impressed by the surface, calling it “fantastique” and applauding the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia on their “very, very good organisation”, adding “Perfect. Everything was perfect. But it’s easy to say that when you win!”.
Comparing the Riaydh track to the one De Mieulle is more accustomed to in Qatar, he said: “In Qatar, the racing is very, very fast. In Riyadh, maybe because of the European jockeys, they are a little slower to start. So that’s a little difference, but the tracks are also so different. They are very fast tracks in Qatar, whereas, in Riyadh, they are a little softer, more good-to-firm. The turf track in Riyadh was perfect, and I don’t think anyone could complain about it. It was not too deep, which is what we like.”
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