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Saudi Cup Recap: Japanese Thoroughbreds Fare Well in Riyadh Races

Yuga Kawada pilots Ushba Tesoro to a runner-up finish in the G1 Saudi Cup, and Japanese horses Forever Young and Remake win a pair of G3 races.

In six featured Saudi Cup races at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday, February 24, Japanese horses had a strong overall showing.

Yuga Kawada guided Ushba Tesoro to a runner-up finish in the day's pulsating final race, also known as the Saudi Cup. The 7-year-old Orfevre progeny, winner of the 2023 Dubai World Cup, placed a head's length behind Senor Buscador in the 1,800-meter spectacle, a 14-horse Grade 1 competition on dirt in Riyadh. 

Venezuelan jockey Junior Alvarado rode the late-charging, come-from-behind winner, holding off the Japanese stallion's ambitions at the wire. Senor Buscador completed the race in 1 minute, 49.494 seconds to secure a winner's check of $20 million USD (¥3 billion JPY) for its owner.

French jockeys Florent Geroux, Flavien Prat and Christophe Lemaire were third, fourth and fifth aboard Saudi Crown, National Treasure and Derma Sotogake, respectively. Lemaire is the reigning season champion in the Japan Racing Association.

After the race, trainer Todd Fincher reacted to Senor Buscador's performance.

"I'm about to cry," Fincher was quoted as saying by The Independent, a British newspaper. "It's amazing. He's never got the credit he deserves, I'm so proud of the horse. I didn't believe, something always happens to him. He always runs good and hard. We knew he'd run good, we had to hope for the right setup and we got it."

Reacting after the race, Kawada said, "He (Ushba Tesoro) was in good form and traveled nicely. He showed his run. The only thing he didn’t do is win."

Wins for Forever Young and Remake

Earlier in the day, Japanese horses notched back-to-back G3 victories in the Saudi Derby (1,600 meters on dirt) and Riyadh Dirt Sprint (1,200 meters), with Forever Young and Remake, respectively.

Forever Young, guided by JRA regular Ryusei Sakai and trained by Yoshito Yahagi, defeated American foe Book 'Em Danno by a head, winning in 1:36.170.

Saudi Cup
Forever Young, ridden by Ryusei Sakai, wins the G3 Saudi Derby on February 24 in Riyadh. (©Martin Dokoupil Photo)

Sakai Reacts to Saudi Derby Victory

After the pulse-rising finish, Sakai told reporters, according to racing website Thoroughbred News: "I was very confident coming into the race. But it was a tougher race because the runner-up was tough and running really well. I was worried but we finished very strongly. He (Forever Young) hasn't fully matured but he is improving now."

Saudi Cup
Ryusei Sakai holds up the winner's trophy after the Saudi Derby. (©Katsumi Saito)

The 26-year-old added, "At the final turn I was very confident and I trusted my horse so I just urged him very strongly to the line. I have been riding him since his debut, and my master Yahagi and I hope he can have more and more experience overseas and I can learn a lot from him."

Remake, trained by Koichi Shintani, secured a 1½-length win in the Dirt Sprint, covering the distance in 1:10.415.

"I expected a fast pace in the early stages," winning jockey Kawada told reporters, "and it went as I expected so I was nice and calm and waited to the straight. It means a huge amount."

Saudi Cup
Yuga Kawada rides Remake to victory in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint. (© Katsumi Saito)

Saudi Cup
Yuga Kawada poses for photographers after the Riyadh Dirt Sprint. (©Katsumi Saito)

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Additional Results in Riyadh

Also Saturday, Italian Cristian Demuro, a regular rider on the JRA circuit, collected a pair of second-place finishes aboard La La Christine in the G2 Turf Sprint (1,351 meters) and Killer Ability in the G2 Neom Turf Cup (2,100 meters). 

Up-and-coming jockey Rossa Ryan, who is 23, piloted Irish horse Annaf to a ¾-length triumph over trainer Takashi Saito's entry in the Turf Sprint in 1:17.875.

In the Turf Cup, Oisin Orr steered 7-year-old Spirit Dancer to a one-length victory over Killer Ability, also overseen by Saito. The winning time: 2:07.092.

In the G3 Red Sea Turf Handicap, contested over 3,000 meters, Ryan Moore rode Tower of London to the win in 3:04.25. Kawada and Echt (trainer Hideyuki Mori's equine entry) finished fifth.  

An Action-Packed Day in Saudi Cup Races

On Saturday, a total of 21 Japanese horses competed in six races at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. Check out the complete list of entrants on JRA News.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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