The richest horse race in the world, the $20-million Saudi Cup, was supposed to be between U.S. imports Charlatan and Knicks Go on Saturday, and it wasn't until the stretch when Mishriff kept gathering momentum and went by Charlatan to win by about a length.
The upset win by the 4-year-old colt was only his second race on dirt. The first time was last year in Saudi Derby Cup over the same surface at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His other seven races have been on the turf in Britain and France. It was his fifth win in nine starts, and the $10-million share of the purse puts him over $11 million in lifetime earnings.
Charlatan and Knicks Go went to the lead from the gate in the 1 1/8-mile race. They stayed 1-2 until entering the far turn when Knicks Go pulled even alongside Charlatan. As they started to exit the turn Charlatan pulled away as Knicks Go faded along the rail. Mishriff, running the race on the outside, started to gather ground and eventually went by Charlatan with less than 100 yards to go in the race.
It was only the fifth race for the Santa Anita-based Charlatan, who was beaten across the finish line for the first time Saturday. He won his previous four races but was disqualified in a division of the Arkansas Derby for a medication violation. He subsequently suffered an injury that took him off the Kentucky Derby trail. The Bob Baffert-trained horse returned Dec. 26 to win the Malibu Stakes by a dominating 4 ½ lengths. Finishing second in the Saudi Cup earned him $3.5 million.
Mishriff, trained by John Gosden and ridden by David Egan, paid $41.60, $12.80 and $6.40 in U.S. betting markets. Gambling is not allowed in Saudi Arabia. Great Scott was third, followed by Knicks Go and Sleepy Eyed Todd. The only other U.S. horse in the race, Tacitus, finished seventh of 14.
Last year’s winner, Maximum Security, still has not received his $10-million share of the purse until an investigation into his then trainer is complete. Jason Servis is under U.S. federal indictment in connection with horse doping. Maximum Security’s name did not come up in the indictment, but Saudi officials withheld the purse. A Saudi official said this week that a determination should be made in about six weeks.
Maximum Security was moved to Baffert’s barn. He won two of four races and was retired after finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.