Ghaiyyath and Cross Counter to spearhead powerful Appleby team for Saudi Cup day

Charlie Appleby (right) at the King Abdulaziz track on Wednesday with, from left: Prince Abdullah Bin Khalid Bin Sultan Al Saoud (board member, Equestrian Club of Riyadh), William Buick, Daniel Tudhope, Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal (Chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia), Frankie Dettori and James Doyle. Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia

Ghaiyyath, the Godolphin horse who produced one of the most impressive performances in Europe last year when he won the Grosser Preis von Baden by 14 lengths, could begin his season at the Saudi Cup meeting.

His trainer Charlie Appleby has earmarked the $1 million Neom Cup, run over 2100m and the first race on the card, for the 5-year-old son of Dubawi, who was last seen finishing well beaten in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.

He will comprise a formidable team travelling up from Dubai that will also include the 2018 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter in the $2.5m Red Sea Turf and the sprinters Space Blues and Glorious Journey in the $1m 1351 Cup. The stable will not have a runner in the $20m Saudi Cup.

Appleby, speaking in Riyadh after watching the turf trial at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack, said: “Ghaiyyath may run on the turf. I am unlikely to have anything in the Saudi Cup. I felt I haven’t got a horse for that race. It’s on the calendar for sure.

“The races Cross Counter, Space Blues and Glorious Journey are in set up fantastically for them. Ghaiyyath will go in the 1m2f race and hopefully that will be a nice stepping stone onto the Sheema Classic.”

Ghaiyyath has only raced eight times, winning five, opening his G1 account in Baden-Baden in September before finishing tenth in the Arc on very soft ground.

“He last ran in the Arc, when it was bottomless ground,” said Appleby. “If you’d asked me two years ago I would have said he loved cut in the ground but, if you go through his form, statistics will tell you he’s a quick ground horse.

“He broke the track record in Baden-Baden on quick ground. He put up a great performance at the start of the season at Longchamp on quick ground as well, so it would be safe to say he is better on a sounder surface than a slower one.”

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