With US$20 million on offer, the Saudi Cup on 29 February will be the world’s richest race, and, while conceding that his charge Elusive State needs to keep improving to earn a place, Tony Millard remains upbeat.
Millard and jockey Joao Moreira, who rode a treble at Sha Tin on Sunday, had to settle for second place with Elusive State, first-up over a distance short of his best in the Class 2 Po Yan Handicap– Big Time Baby won the contest for trainer Manfred Man and jockey Matthew Chadwick.
But Millard is optimistic that his improved six-year-old can continue progressing towards an ambitious international target.
“I didn’t expect him to run that well but in another two strides he’s there. He never had a break the whole race but he still ran on and that’s just his class and he could be an international horse. He needs a little help to get him to Dubai and what’s also been thrown into the field now is the new race in Saudia Arabia,” Millard said.
“No-one wants to say he’s that good at this stage but what’s good about the Saudi race is that it’s over 1800m – and that is exactly what Elusive State wants. He’s the type of horse who’s progressive and if we can get him in the right spot you never know what might happen,” he said.
The $20m Saudi Cup, to be run at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh is now the world’s richest race.
The prize for the winning horse will be US$10,000,000 with finishers down to 10th place sharing another US$10 000 000 between them.
The Saudi Cup will take its place on the international calendar and will be run four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, and four weeks prior the Dubai World Cup at Meydan.
Moreira, who drew a blank on opening day last week, kicked off his three-timer with Fortune Happiness, who ran away with the opener. His second win came aboard maiden galloper Dollar Reward, and he wrapped up his haul aboard Silver Fig (122lb) in the Class 3 Seymour Handicap.
Of the trio, Silver Fig was the quality standout, impressing both Moreira and trainer Tony Millard with his Class 3 triumph.
“I’ve always thought the world of him. He’s been very unlucky a couple of times but the beauty of him is that he’s so versatile and can run both (dirt and turf),” Millard said.
Silver Fig chased down tearaway leader Winner Supreme and managed to kick on past that rival, going onto score by a commanding three lengths.
“He’s got a very good pedigree and anything can happen. We had one or two setbacks but he’s a proper horse now. He knows what to do and I’m very excited about him,” Millard added.
Silver Fig debuted last term in Class 4 off a 52 rating and had risen to a mark of 69 for this afternoon’s task. The gelding is likely now to sit on the cusp of Class 2 depending on how the handicapper views this latest success.