The challengers came from Bahrain, Spain and the Czech Republic but it was the Saudi Arabian-trained Petrus (IRE) who landed the inaugural running of the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap sponsored by Al Rajhi Bank.
Trained by Fawaz Alghareeba, the 6-year-old travelled in midfield behind the leading pack headed by Spanish raider Noray (FR), whose pace-setting run weakened on the home turn as What A Welcome (GB) and Rayounpour (IRE) took up the running. Switched wide by jockey Wigberto ‘Wiggy’ Ramos, Petrus responded well to his rider’s urgings, launching a determined run down the middle of the track to peg back a late charge by Fawzi Nass’ representative Desert Lion (GB).
Petrus’s fast-finishing effort saw him pass the post two and a quarter lengths clear of that Bahrain-trained rival, with Frankie Dettori’s mount Rayounpour, also from Bahrain but from the stable of Allan Smith, another length and three-quarters back in third.
Victory in the International Handicap, for horses from nations outside Parts One and Two of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, is the third win and the most significant to date for Petrus since arriving in Saudi Arabia from Britain, where he was formerly trained by Brian Meehan.
The success on the first day of The Saudi Cup meeting proved extra special for the winning jockey, originally from Panama, who was forced to miss last year’s event with a broken wrist.
Wiggy Ramos, winning jockey, Petrus – “I’m very happy to get this win. I tried to be close on my horse but he didn’t want to be close so I stayed back and waited for him to give me the sign. At the 800 (metres) I started to look for a bit of a run but I didn’t have the room, then when he was out in the clear he was very strong. This kind of race is fantastic and brings more quality horses to race in Saudi Arabia.
“Winning always feels good but on a day like today it is even better. Last year I broke my wrist and I couldn’t ride on this day so this year I have made it and so far, so good.”
Paddy Mathers, jockey, Desert Lion (2nd) – “I had a really good trip actually. I just got stuck in a bit of a pocket before turning in so I had to get out of that. Then he picked up. He ran a cracking race. I can’t ask for anything more for him. He’s a lovely horse and his future seems very big now.”
Frankie Dettori, jockey, Rayounpour (3rd) – “He stays and (2100m) is a little short for him. I had him in the box seat and kicked on early. I knew he gallops all day. The first two just had too much turn of foot for me.”
Adrie de Vries, jockey, What A Welcome (4th) – “I had a lovely run on the inside, I got the speed and he kept on going. A good run.”
Cristian Demuro, jockey, Walkinthesand (5th) – “He is a good horse. He finished well. He was hampered at the start of the straight but then he finished well, catching up with the others. The ground is perfect.”
Luis Morales, jockey, Proven Reserves (7th) – “It went okay. I was in a good position but the horse didn’t respond in the last 600, but it’s okay.”
Ingrid Koplikova, jockey, Zariyannka (8th) – “The race was fast but it was good for me. I was locked in on the inside but then it opened. The other horses were just better.”
Hollie Doyle, jockey, Federico (10th) – “He couldn’t go quick enough sadly but the track rode lovely.”