Riyadh review | Panthalassa pounces for Japan in Saudi Cup

Panthalassa made it all the way under Yutaka Yoshida as they fended off Frankie Dettori and Country Grammar in the £16,000,000 Group 1 Saudi Cup.

The Bob Baffert-trained country grammer was narrowly defeated by Flavien Prat 12 months ago at the World’s Most Valuable Race before giving Dettori a fourth Dubai World Cup win a few weeks later at Meydan.

After a quick win in California on Boxing Day, the six-year-old returned to Riyadh as one of two leading contenders for the Baffert team alongside multiple Grade One winner Taiba – but Panthalassa put on a strong canter from the start at King Abdulaziz racetrack and could not be caught.

Panthalassa, trained by Yoshito Yahagi and ridden by Yutaka Yoshida, dead-heated last year’s Dubai Turf to Lord North, who had won a far less lucrative winter derby at Lingfield earlier in the day.

Such was the pace set by Panthalassa that Baffert’s pair were under pressure going into the finish corner and it briefly looked like it could be a Japanese one-two with a trio of compatriots chasing Panthalassa down the straight.

But Dettori conjured a stormy late rally out of Country Grammer, the line coming only too soon as he was narrowly denied again.

Elite Power is a special winner for Dettori in Dirt Sprint

Frankie Dettori brought Elite Power with a devastating run through the middle of the track to win the Riyadh Dirt Sprint.

The Eclipse Award winner, who was easily knocked off his feet in the early stages, went into overdrive in the final two furlongs and scored a shot on target by a wide margin.

As winners of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last time out, Elite Power were simply in a different league than their rivals – but it was a gripping achievement for Dettori.

He wore the silks of the famous Juddmonte operation founded by the late Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah and worn by Dettori in many victories at races including Enable and most recently Dewhurst on Chaldean.

“The first word that comes to mind is ‘airplane,'” Dettori said of the Bill Mott-trained five-year-old.

“As soon as I asked him to come a little closer, he just ran away and the race was over.

“The Abdullah family has been so good for the sport and I love the colors. It gives the locals something to cheer about.”

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Mostahdaf pushes to Neom Turf Cup victory

John and Thady Gosden’s Mostahdaf turned the Neom Turf Cup into a procession in Riyadh.

The race was set to see George Boughey’s Royal Ascot winner Missed The Cut announce himself on the world stage as part of the Saudi Cup undercard, but for the second time on a trip away from home he’s fluffed his lines.

Slowly moving below Oisin Murphy, he had to circle the field to get into a practical position, but had little left to give in the finish corner and finished fourth.

Mostahdaf, on the other hand, has always been in the perfect spot under Jim Crowley.

Most recently seen last at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on soft ground, he felt much more at home on a faster surface and shot up quite a bit while Dubai Future was seven lengths adrift of second place.

Thady Gosden said: “He was obviously pulled down from the inside and had a nice draw. Jim broke well and also gave him the perfect ride.

“The pace was slow and we had a really nice place on the outside. It was a bit chaotic behind us and luckily we didn’t have any problems and he sent him at the perfect time and he came down well on the straight.

“He didn’t really enjoy swimming in the Arc – it was a much faster surface here today and he’s really enjoying it. He has low action and enjoyed flicking the top of it.

“We put this plan together last year, we thought he was the kind of horse that would be suited to races like this. There is a great attraction to coming to the Middle East now and we thought this would suit him well at the beginning of the year.

“His last race was obviously the Arc but before that he was up against useful horses in the September stakes and he put up quite a bit of pace that day on a more solid surface. He is a versatile horse who is quite comfortable trip wise. We will speak to the owners and see if we can take him to Dubai next month.”

Speaking of the run of Missed The Cut, Boughey said, “Oisin had to decide in a split second whether to go forward or back, and through no one’s fault he probably ended up going further than the others.

“But that’s racing. He probably ran a bit below his best but he will be back. There are many options for him, we’ll just see how he is tomorrow.”

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Murphy said: “He had a long trip – jockey error. Too bad he tried.”

Bill Mott’s Casa Creed was dropped by Japan-trained Songline just 12 months ago in the 1351 Turf Sprint and he had to settle for second place behind another Far East runner this time in Bathrat Leon.

Fourth behind Baaeed in the Sussex Stakes, Bathrat Leon won the Godolphin Mile last year and could be ridden very aggressively on that seven furlong journey.

Yoshito Yahagi is no stranger to winners on the global stage, and Bathrat Leon clung desperately to success.

Richard Hannon’s Happy Romance ended just outside the spots ahead of stablemate Lusail.

Yahagi said: “Tactics should be in front. He got a very good ride I think. The course was perfect for him. Ryusei Sakai, my stable jockey, is very up and coming at the moment. It’s a big win for him.

“He traveled well and it was a very good plan. He survives this journey well. We will now go to Dubai.”

There was a local winner of the Saudi derby when Commissioner King narrowly defeated Frankie Dettoti with Bob Baffert’s Havnametdown.

Victorious jockey Luis Morales said: “He gave me everything. From the way he had worked over the past few days and weeks, we knew we had a good chance. He just kept getting better.

“I had a good trip and at one point I thought I was going to win, then Frankie’s horse kept coming back.

“But we did it and it’s a great feeling to win for all the local fans. He’s a local horse and it’s great to do that.”

When asked how special it was to beat Frankie Dettori at the finish, he added with a smile, “After the finish line I knew we had won. But you know Frankie. When he rides against him, he’s a pain in the ass at times! But he is a legend.”

Dettori was philosophical, saying: “I spoke to Bob and he said try to improve his speed. I tried to save as much as possible. We got into a duel, but unfortunately he had enough in the last 50 meters.”

There was to be no fairytale comeback for 2021 Ascot Gold Cup winner Subjectivist, who finished far down the field behind Silver Sonic at the Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh.

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Subjectivist, now coached by Charlie Johnston, was undoubtedly the leading stayer in Europe when he added Ascot’s flagship race to his victory in Dubai a few months earlier.

However, he sustained a tendon injury and was off the track for over 600 days before returning on the Saudi Cup undercard.

Joe Fanning – himself recently returned from a long-term injury – tried to dictate but never got off the field and was hit shortly after turning into the straight.

Silver Sonic, trained in Japan by Yasutoshi Ikee and ridden by Australia’s Damian Lane, came out on top, and while Ian Williams’ Enemy briefly threatened, he was no match for the grey, cramped home.

Ebor winner Trawlerman, trained by John and Thady Gosden, couldn’t land a punch either.

“He’s a good horse and a good stayer and the race went well for him,” said Lane.

“Of course I was very happy to follow Subjectivist. Trawlerman on my outside just gave me a bit of grief – he responded to me a bit and I just knew I needed some luck at some point. When the run presented itself, it was too strong.

“I think the Tenno Sho in Japan is next. I’ll be back in Australia for a few weeks and then hopefully for the Dubai Carnival.”

When asked if he would eventually come to the UK, he quipped: “For the right offer, for sure!”

Richard Kingscote, who drove Enemy, said: “On the train I wanted to be a bit more manageable than in Dubai. To be fair, he did everything really well. He has a good, smooth run around corners to get out and challenge, but the winner did extremely well.”

Johnston said: “He had to light him up a bit from that draw and he would have been interested anyway. This was made worse by what he had to do early on.

“We’ll see if he comes out of it in one piece, but he’ll probably go to the Sagaro or the Henry II, just lower our view of home. I would say he’s not going to Dubai now.

“We knew what we were asking him was a big, big request, but at the same time, where do you put the horse that won the Ascot Gold Cup last time?”

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