Japan’s Panthalassa Winner Of The Saudi Cup

The eyes of the racing world were on Saudi Arabia in late February, as the world’s richest horse racing was staged at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh. Some of the globe’s most talented horses in the dirt were in action for the Group 1, which was competed over a total distance of 1,800 meters.

It has become a hugely popular international event in recent seasons, with Mishriff claiming victory for the Brits in 2021 before there was home success in 2022 with Emblem Road. However, Japan ensured that there was a fourth different nation to claim victory at the Saudi Cup in consecutive years, as Panthalassa roared to success with Yutaka Yoshida on board.

Japan Panthalassa Winner Of The Saudi Cup

Panthalassa Lands Lucrative Prize

There was a wide-open feel to the Saudi Cup in 2023, but it was to be a landmark evening for Japan, as they registered a first-ever victory in the Group 1 event. Panthalassa was among the outsiders in the odds at Japan’s sports betting sites, but he traveled excellently throughout the race for trainer Yoshito Yahagi to take a memorable win.

The contender was sent off at 16/1 odds, but after traveling through the pack, he was able to hold on to his lead in the closing stages. The line came at the perfect time for the six-year-old, as a closing Country Grammer would likely have claimed the win if there were another 100 yards to travel.

However, there was to be no fond farewell for legendary jockey Frankie Dettori, as he needed to settle for second on the runner for Bob Baffert. There was yet more evidence of the Japanese dominance in the race this year, with Café Pharoah and Geoglyph taking third and fourth, respectively. In fact, for much of the run to the line, it appeared as though the Japanese were going to enjoy a historic 1-2-3-4, but Country Grammer spoiled that part.

Bolt From The Blue

Panthalassa’s success would have come out of the blue for many, as his run in the Saudi Cup was considerably a career-best effort. The six-year-old came into the race after a three-month break from action.

But few could have suggested that he had a chance based on his previous effort. Back in December, he finished tenth of 12 over a mile and two furlongs, as he was beaten by a widening 14 lengths at Sha Tin.

However, Panthalassa always boasted some encouraging form in the Middle East, most notably his dead heat finish alongside Lord North in the G1 Dubai Turf last year. But, this was a clear run that presented him back to his very best, and all the attention will now switch to his next run in the Middle East.

Other Performances in Saudi Cup

A field of 13 went to post for the Saudi Cup this year, and there were 29 lengths separating the horse that won the race, and Scotland Yard, who finished 13th. Some of the leading contenders were slightly disappointing in Saudi Arabia, including the pre-race favorite Taiba.

The one-time Kentucky Derby favorite for Bob Baffert really struggled on his first start in the Middle East, as he finished down in eighth place for jockey Mike Smith. The four-year-old appeared to weaken incredibly quickly down the final stretch, and there will now be big questions surrounding what comes next for the talented Baffert runner. One of the performances that went under the radar in the Saudi Cup was that of the previous winner Emblem Road.

The home-town favorite eventually finished in sixth, but he rallied extremely well after making a very slow start to the race. However, his finishing effort ensured that he was always closing on the top five finishers, and the result in the Saudi Cup may have been completely different if Emblem Road was able to get out of the stalls quicker.

What’s Next On The International Calendar?

While domestic races in the United States and the United Kingdom will captivate audiences around the world, the next big flat races in the Middle East will be staged on Dubai World Cup night. The feature, which boasts the same name, is a Group 1 and will be competed over 2,000 meters at Meydan Racecourse.

Last year’s winner Country Grammer will once again be among the leading contenders, as the extra distance looks almost certain to play to his strengths more so than Panthalassa. However, Algiers could be the key contender in the Dubai World Cup, having landed two victories at the course already this year, including a dominant six-length win over Bendoog in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge in early February.

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