Saudi Cup Thriller!

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Senor Buscador (USA) prevailed in a photo-finish to the US$20m The Saudi Cup as the American trainee thwarted Japanese hope Ushba Tesoro (JPN) in the final strides of a spectacular contest in Riyadh on Saturday.

The patrons of King Abdulaziz Racecourse roared approvingly when the verdict was called in favour of Senor Buscador, who carried the colours of local owner Sharaf Mohammed Al Hariri in a deal brokered with joint-owner Joe Peacock Jr in time for this race.

The winner is trained in New Mexico by Todd Fincher.

Senor Buscador and Junior Alvarado win the Gr1 Saudi Cup on Saturday (Pic – Mathea Kelley-Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia)

The widely anticipated speed meltdown with a clutch of runners vying for the lead eventuated and it was noticeable how far back the first two past the post were at the halfway stage.

Both Senor Buscador and Usba Tesoro were content to bide their time a conservative 10 lengths off a pace being forced by Saudi Crown (USA).

In the home straight, Ushba Tesoro, the reigning Dubai World Cup champion, was the first to give meaningful pursuit down the centre of the track and with 50m to race another Japanese winner in the sport’s most valuable event appeared likely.

But jockey Junior Alvarado kept cajoling more from Senor Buscador, whose grit and gameness found the lead right on the line to score by a head to register his first success at Group 1 level.

Watch the replay:

Bred by Joe Peacock and his son, Joe Peacock Jr, Senor Buscador is by Mineshaft out of their mare Rose’s Desert (Desert God).

He started his career in Louisiana and briefly was on the Triple Crown trail in 2021—an experiment that ended after a fifth-place finish in the Gr2 Risen Star Stakes  at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

“We always knew he’d put it together,” said the younger Peacock. “We didn’t know it would be for the Saudi Cup.”

Becoming emotional at the post-race news conference, he added: “My (late) father and I started in racing about 55 years ago. This is the last horse my dad and I bred together.”

In his three previous races, Senor Buscador had finished seventh in the Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Classic behind White Abarrio and Derma Sotogake among others in November; second in the Gr2 Cigar Mile Handicap behind Hoist the Gold in December and second in the Gr1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes behind National Treasure in January. All of those rivals were behind him on Saturday!

Third home was Saudi Crown, a terrific performance considering he forced the pace and kept on when others faded. The winning time checked in at 1:49.50.

Todd Fincher, trainer Senor Buscador, said: “I’m about to cry, it’s amazing. He never got the credit he deserved and he finally got to show it today. I didn’t believe it, as something always happens to him in every race. He always has 10 or 11 horses to weave in and out of. We know he was going to run good, we just had to hope for the right set up. It’s awesome.

“From New Mexico, we don’t have the quality of horses very often but the stable is getting better now and they treated us great over here. I’m very excited about the opportunity and getting it done is unbelievable. The plan is Dubai but we will leave it up to the horse. He usually doesn’t take long to bounce back and we just need to make sure his physical health is in good shape.”

Junior Alvarado, winning jockey said: “We got a bit unlucky the last two races on the track, very fast with speed horses, and I never like to change the style of horses. I always had faith in the horse and we just needed, not even luck, just a fair track and I knew we would get that today. I’m very happy, very grateful for opportunities that come along. I try give my horses the best opportunity. I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get after having some injuries.”

Joe Peacock Jr, joint-owner: “The one-turn mile and eighth [1800m] was right up his alley and a track that played fair. We can make excuses for him, he puts himself in that position getting dirt in his face but he sure tries to overcome it every time.

“A couple of weeks before the Pegasus we thought of The Saudi Cup. I was so adamant he would prove himself and he has. This ranks up there. This was big. We were excited about the opportunity. We felt the horse deserved the opportunity. It’s amazing.”

Yuga Kawada, jockey of second-placed Ushba Teshoro: “He was in good form and travelled nicely. He showed his run. The only thing he didn’t do is win.”

Florent Geroux, jockey of third-placed Saudi Crown: “It was very comfortable up front, I was surprised. It was too far for him. He ran a big race. Obviously, he ran too hard to get beat. He did all the dirty work and I just got caught in the last 100m. Beautiful race.”

Flavien Prat rode National Treasure in fourth: “I had a good trip and I thought he ran a good race. I was not travelling as well as last time. I think he ran hard last time, but still I’m very proud of him.”

Christophe Lemaire ran fifth on Derma Sotogake: “With this number in the stalls, the horse didn’t leave that quick. I could get a position on the inside and didn’t lose any ground and the horse made good progress.I was at the back of the leaders in the final straight and I thought I could come with a big run to win, but this was a reappearance and he just couldn’t finish it.”

Joel Rosario rode Isolate in sixth: “Very good, he was in a good spot but he got a little tired in the end.”

Luis Saez was on Defunded in seventh: “Broke well, he was in the right spot, but no horse to finish.”

Joao Moreira was on Crown Pride in ninth: “He travelled very nice the first half of the race and all of a sudden he came off and he kept running, but he didn’t bring his A-game.”

Irad Ortiz rode White Abarrio in tenth: “Beautiful trip.”

Camilo Ospina rode Carmel Road in eleventh: “He was wide from gate 14 but it was a very tough race.”

Adel Alfouraidi rode Power In Numbers who finished back  in thirteenth position; “Very hard for him.”

John Velazquez was on Hoist The Gold in fourteenth:  “He broke well, but he didn’t show up today.”

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