Brad Cox insists he managed to focus on preparing Mandaloun for the Saudi Arabia Cup despite the distraction of his horse which received the Kentucky Derby earlier this week.
Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert, was officially disqualified after testing positive for the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone, a banned substance in Kentucky on race day. Baffert and his connections will appeal the decision, but Cox’s attentions have been fixed on the world’s most valuable race and he is happy with how Mandaloun has settled in Riyadh.
“The thing about the Kentucky Derby is that we didn’t think about it much the day before the announcement and I’m pretty happy, although I don’t know if it’s over or not,” a- he declared.
“Our goal is the Saudi Arabia Cup first and foremost right now. It is well installed. He trained very well on Thursday morning, my first morning here, and I was happy with what I saw. He seems to be on it and we’re focusing on Saturday rather than what happened nine or ten months ago.
If Mandaloun succeeds at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, it would be a fitting result as the four-year-old wears the colors of the late Prince Khalid Abdullah, who died in January last year.
“Right after the Kentucky Derby, Garrett O’Rourke (manager of Juddmonte Farms in America) said the family would really like us to be able to target that,” Cox said.
“Obviously we were looking at some first graders, like the Haskell, but we turned our attention to that. We ran into it five weeks ago. It was a good run, probably a bit better than this what we expected and it looks like it’s gone from three to four.
“I know he has it physically and Florent (Geroux, jockey) thought he had it mentally in his race, so we are ready for a big effort.
“It’s a good race. The horse on the outside (Mishriff) is the defending champion. He will be hard to beat. The mare from Japan (Marche Lorraine) is good, the four Americans make sense – they belong together – and there is the horse Godolphin. It’s a good group, but our horse is exactly where we want it.
The Keeneland coach will hope Mandaloun shows no ill effects from his victory over Midnight Bourbon last month in his first start since July.
“It might be a bit fast after his last race four weeks ago. Someone said ‘why send him back?’. And I said ‘there are 20 million reasons to get vaccinated,’” he added.
Thady Gosden reports that Mishriff, owned by Prince Faisal, is a better specimen horse at the age of five as he bids to win the Saudi Arabian Cup for the second consecutive year – a feat that would make five year old child number one. breadwinner of all time.
Gosden, who forms the entire Make Believe together with his father, John, has seen a positive difference since last year.
“When you see him physically, he’s more muscular and has a thicker neck than you’d expect to be a year older and it looks like he’s retained the same speed,” he said.
“He has always been a very tough horse and very enthusiastic in his work. The preparation went well and we couldn’t have hoped for better.
Mishriff won from pit 12 in 2021 and has to overcome being outside at gate 14.
“Obviously it’s a bit wide, but he’s better there than on the stall 1 rail,” he continues. “It’s not ideal, but it’s better than being on the rails. We’ll see and I hope it goes well.
“It was a big thrill for the owner last year and a wonderful achievement. He raised the dam, he owned the sire. It’s rare to see that in any horse in a Group 1.”
Gosden senior did not make the trip last year, but is present this time for what could be a historic performance.
“It’s a race that seems to have a lot of depth, a really fabulous race in fact, a real international Group 1,” he said.
Steve Asmussen is convinced that the best is yet to come from Midnight Bourbon.
“He has an elite level of talent without finishing it at this stage. He hasn’t had the success that his ability would allow, but that also leaves us plenty to go forward,” he said .
“He is still in the physical and mental development that I think will allow him to be the best horse in training in the world this year.
“It’s one thing after another but it’s there, it just needs to fall into place. I hope beyond hope and expect him to wait until the Saudi Arabian Cup stage to set everything up perfectly.
Saeed bin Suroor was delighted to have given Real World, Frankie Dettori’s mount, a helping hand by selecting a decent draw for the first time.
“It’s the first time I’ve chosen a good draw. It’s great, I hope he can show his good footwork and I think he will go the distance well,” he said.
“There is no excuse, Frankie knows the horse well. The horse has improved physically and mentally he is much better. When we used to take him to the races he used to sweat a lot, but he’s much more relaxed now and over time he’s really learned a lot more.
“Hopefully he can handle the dirt and I think that’s his best distance.”
Baffert, meanwhile, thinks Country Grammer has what it takes to put on a good show.
“I thought he worked really well the other day and you want to see they like the track and move well,” the Hall of Fame coach said.
“The class is there and the distance won’t be an issue, but the only thing I worry about with him might be the mile of a lap and an eighth instead of two laps. We saw that last year, Knicks Go wasn’t as effective as around two rounds.
“I’ve been working him aggressively from the gate so he’ll come out and be up to speed and I’ve been training him to run around a corner. His races before he was put on the shelves were quite impressive and he proved he was a fighter.