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Baron Samedi to spearhead Joseph O’Brien’s Saudi Arabian challenge

Joseph O’Brien has his eyes on two big foreign prizes when he sends two horses to the Saudi Cup meeting – Baron Samedi in the Longines Red Sea Handicap and Thunder Moon in the 1351 Turf Sprint.

The former Irish champion jockey only took out a training licence in 2015, yet has won a host of big races around the globe including the Melbourne Cup twice, the Cox Plate and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

He is now looking first to Baron Samedi, winner of the Grade Two Belmont Gold Cup last year, to give him another international triumph when he runs in the Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh.

“He’s a good, solid horse who just keeps progressing and always seems to turn up on the day,” the County Kilkenny handler said.

“He seems in good form at home and this is the race we’ve always had in mind to start him off this season. We’ve had some great days around the world so far and this looks a really good opportunity to have a go at a big pot again.”

Baron Samedi, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore, won seven races in a row during 2020 and 2021 over a variety of distances and surfaces, and O’Brien thinks the track at King Abdulaziz racecourse should play to the horse’s strengths.

“It looks as if those middle distance to staying races are where we will run him this season. He might perhaps prefer a little shorter than the trip in Saudi, but it’s a tight-enough track and I think the trip should be OK for him,” he said.

“He won on a tight track in America in that Grade Two last year, so he’s proven he can handle this sort of test and I’m hopeful he’ll run very well.”

O’Brien is hoping his other runner, Thunder Moon, will put his best foot forward in the 1351 Turf Sprint, presented by stc.

Thunder Moon is set for the Turf Sprint in Saudi Arabia (
Thunder Moon is set for the Turf Sprint in Saudi Arabia (PA

The four-year-old, who is set to be ridden by Christophe Soumillon, won the Group One National Stakes as a juvenile but things did not go his way in 2021 and he was beaten on his reappearance last month.

“He was unlucky not to be a Group One winner last year having been beaten a head in France and if he gets a good draw, we’d be hopeful he could run into some prize money,” he said.

“I think it’s fair to say he’s not the most consistent, but on the pick of his form he’s not without a chance, and I think we’ve finally found his optimum conditions.”

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