Strong international support as fields revealed for inaugural Saudi Cup meeting

Cross Counter striking under Buick
Cross Counter: among the field for the Longines Turf HandicapCredit: Edward Whitaker

The inaugural Saudi Cup fixture on February 29 has attracted vast international support with high-profile runners from eight different countries among the provisional fields revealed on Wednesday.

King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh will host a valuable eight-race card headlined by the Saudi Cup, which is run on the dirt and is the world's richest race, worth an unprecedented $20 million.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained globetrotter Magic Wand, second in the Pegasus World Cup Turf last month, is among 11 international runners in the 1m1f contest, which also includes Godolphin's Group 1 winner Benbatl, who runs at Meydan on Thursday.

Magic Wand: a possible for the $20 million Saudi Cup
Magic Wand: a possible for the $20 million Saudi CupCredit: Patrick McCann
They face a powerful US challenge that includes last year's Dubai World Cup runner-up Gronkowski and Maximum Security, who was demoted after passing the post first in the Kentucky Derby.

There are three supporting races on the country's first turf track and the staying contest, the Longines Turf Handicap, is a European affair, with 11 runners from the continent set to line up.

Chief among them are Godolphin's 2018 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter, Dee Ex Bee, now trained in Dubai, and Prince Of Arran.

Ireland's champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins is no stranger to having runners on the Flat but is set to break new ground with True Self, who is among a strong field for the Neom Turf Cup.

The race is run over 1m2½f and the line-up includes Japanese runner Deirdre, who pulled off a shock win in the Nassau Stakes last season.

Japanese mare Deirdre was last seen finishing fourth in the Hong Kong Vase
Japanese mare Deirdre was last seen finishing fourth in the Hong Kong VaseCredit: Edward Whitaker
Charlie Appleby will be well represented at the meeting and has two runners in the 1351 Turf Sprint. He is set to run Glorious Journey and Space Blues, the latter was last seen finishing third in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville in August.

The fields for each race will be completed with the addition of two local runners, which will be selected on February 8.

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