John Gosden aiming to take down American big guns in the Saudi Cup with his French Derby winner Mishriff

JOHN Gosden is on a Mish-ion to bring the Saudi Cup back to Blighty.

The champion trainer saddles Mishriff in the world’s richest race in Riyadh later today.

Worth an eye-watering £14.5m, the Saudi Cup was only founded last year but it has already attracted a star-studded line-up.

Standing in Mishriff’s way are two mighty American runners in the shape of Charlatan and Knicks Go.

The former is unbeaten for his legendary trainer Bob Baffert, while Knicks Go has won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Pegasus World Cup on his last two starts.

But Gosden, 69, is up for the challenge, and French Classic winner Mishriff has form at this meeting having finished second in the Saudi Derby 12 months ago.

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Gosden said: "He worked nicely going into the Saudi Derby last year, but first time on the dirt, you never know how they’ll handle it.

“He did have the benefit of a wide draw last year but we were thrilled the way he ran.

"I think he's a mile-and-a-quarter horse, very much so. He's got a great stride, great tactical speed and a powerful finish.

“I think that is his perfect trip. This is over nine furlongs and they’ll go fast but we think he can handle it.”

Gosden trained successfully in the US in the 1980’s and knows a thing or two about beating big guns from the other side of the Pond.

He famously saddled Raven’s Pass to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2008 – beating American champ Curlin in the process.

Mishriff might lack the same big-race experience as Raven’s Pass at this stage in his career, but his trainer reckons he has the raw ability to run a big race.

He said: "Dirt races are run at a very different tempo. You need a wide draw, which thankfully we have got.

"If it was a mile and quarter it would suit us better, as the Americans break well and get away fast, that’s their game as we saw in the race last year.

“You don’t want to go too fast early in the first quarter and get stuck in behind and get a load of dirt kicked in your face.

“That’s what can stop turf horses when they switch surfaces, they’re not used to it and end up climbing out of the way or holding their breath.

“So that’s why a wide draw is advantageous, you can avoid all that. But they’ll go hard and it's not going to be a race with any hiding places.

"He's had a nice down time building up to this. He had excuses when he got stuck in the bog at Ascot last time.

“He's a genuine horse, he enjoys his training and he isn’t one who requires a massive amount of work, so to that extent he's the right type to get ready this early in the year."

Young jockey David Egan, retained rider for Mishriff’s owner Prince Faisal, was unable to partner the horse to victory in the French Derby last year because of Covid restrictions.

But Gosden is confident he can handle the big occasion.

He continued: “He didn’t have a good run of it last year, everytime he wanted to ride the horse he was either suspended or stuck quarantining.

“But he is a very talented jockey, he rode the horse to win in the Newmarket Stakes last year and he has been riding him in track work in Riyadh.

“Everything has gone well so far and we are looking forward to the race.”

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