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Saudi Cup, world’s richest horse race, not worth betting

Updated February 27, 2020 - 7:39 pm

The first running of the world’s richest horse race — the $20 million Saudi Cup — will take place Saturday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. It’s a race I won’t want to miss as a fan, but one I don’t expect to invest in as a bettor — with one or two possible exceptions.

There are a few problems coming up with a workable betting strategy on a brand new race like the Saudi Cup, a 1⅛th-mile race for 4-year-olds and up that will be run at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack.

Chief among them is that the five U.S.-based horses in the 14-horse field are certain to be heavily bet in the domestic betting pool, given that most bettors in North America have little familiarity with the overseas competitors and there apparently aren’t any past performances available giving more than cursory data on their records.

As a result, the Stars and Stripes contingent, led by Maximum Security, the disqualified winner of last year’s Kentucky Derby, probably will be underlays. The other U.S.-based runners are the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last out; Mucho Gusto, another Baffert runner who won the Pegasus World Cup in January; the Eclipse Award-winning mare Midnight Bisou; and Triple Crown-tested Tacitus. Gronkowski, bred in Kentucky and campaigned in the U.S. and Europe before being shifted to the Mideast last year, also is in the field.

There’s also the matter of the racing surface, which appears to be much less speed-favoring than typical at North American tracks. Track superintendent Bob Turman told the Daily Racing Form this week that the surface is softer and slower than U.S. tracks, with a higher percentage of fine sand and a deeper 3½-inch cushion, which is more conducive to closers than your typical North American oval.

Throw in the possible aftereffects of overseas travel, warm weather (a high of 88 is forecast for Saturday) and the sundry things that can go wrong in any race and this begins to look more and more like a race to enjoy while sitting on your wallet.

There are two situations in which I might make an exception:

— If one of the U.S. runners drifts up to a range that makes him playable, I could make a small win bet.

— I’ll also be checking overseas odds as the race draws closer to see if any of the runners based in the Middle East are taking significant action in Europe or elsewhere. If that happens, I also might make a small win bet if that runner is being overlooked in the U.S. pool.

Other than that, I expect to stretch out on the couch and enjoy what figures to be an interesting race, which will be shown live on Fox Sports 1 from 9-10 a.m. Pacific Time. Many advance deposit wagering sites and Nevada racebooks also will show the race live.

#RJHorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers are staying stateside and tackling two Grade 2 stakes races on a stakes-packed Gulfstream Park card: the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile for 4-year-olds and up and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, a 1 1/16th-mile race for 3-year-olds.

In the former, the crew is narrowly backing lukewarm 7-2 morning line favorite Mr. Freeze to break through after three straight near misses. They have Phat Man (4-1) to place and Haikal (10-1) to show.

I think Haikal has a much better chance of winning than his odds suggest and will make him my top pick. I have the always underestimated Hog Creek Hustle (12-1) to place and Mr. Freeze for the show.

In the Fountain of Youth, the crowd ’cappers are going to try to beat 2-1 morning line favorite Dennis’ Moment with Chance It (7-2) despite that colt being marooned in the 12 post. They have Dennis’ Moment to place and Ete Indien (8-1) to show.

I think Dennis’ Moment is the most talented colt in the field, but coming off a four-month layoff, I going to try to beat him. I’m going to give Liam’s Lucky Charm (15-1) another chance after his pop-and-stop effort in the Risen Star two weeks ago. As Seen On TV (9-2) is my place horse, with Dennis’ Moment in third.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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