19 January 2023 – Amr Zedan, the successful Saudi Arabian businessman and Thoroughbred breeder, has entered two of his star horses, both trained by Bob Baffert, in the $20 million Group 1 Saudi Cup on Saturday 25 February.
Taiba, a three-time Grade 1 winner who landed the 1400m Malibu Stakes impressively at Santa Anita last month, is set to be accompanied by stablemate Country Grammer, a close second to Emblem Road in the 2022 Saudi Cup before going on to take the Dubai World Cup the following month.
Describing Taiba’s last start in the Malibu when dropping back in distance to 1400m, Zedan said: “He’s the kind of horse that works as good as his workmate. He has his own mind but he gives me a heart attack in every race, especially down the backstretch.
“The Malibu was an important race for him as it turned into a bit of a sprint. It was a good call by Bob [Baffert] to put him in the right condition to instigate that kind of speed and it was a good step.
“If you watch the Pennsylvania Derby, he was dropping back and then picked up. Mike Smith knows him well and they are a great combination. He makes Mike work – he was more exhausted than Taiba that day!”
Asked when The Saudi Cup came on the radar for the four-year-old son of Gun Runner, Zedan said: “We really hoped we had something after he won the Santa Anita Derby in April and we always thought he would be the perfect fit as for the race going from his three-year-old to his four-year-old year.
“The Saudi Cup was front and center, we had to see how the rest of the year played out but with me being from Saudi it was always a priority. I serve on the board of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia [JCSA] with Prince Bandar bin Khalid Alfaisal [Chairman, JCSA] and I’m super pumped and super excited to be a part of The Saudi Cup’s continued success.”
Country Grammer was only beaten half a length by Emblem Road before tasting success in the Dubai World Cup a month later.
Reflecting on his run in Riyadh last February, Zedan said: “It was a good effort and it was a prelude to Dubai. We thought the extra distance at Meydan would suit Country Grammer, but Life Is Good was a significant concern.
“Country Grammer enjoyed the distance and Life Is Good probably prefers The Saudi Cup distance. He keeps grinding our horse. He’s got speed and the workmanship to get over the wire.
“It was my first appearance at The Saudi Cup and Country Grammer was an unknown commodity. He showed great tenacity to finish second and we wery very proud of him. I was delighted for Prince Saud bin Salman [owner of Embem Road].”
Frankie Dettori starts his farewell tour in Saudi Arabia next month and Zedan confirmed he will maintain his partnership with the son of Tonalist, who he won the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on the same day as Taiba’s Malibu victory.
Zedan said: “Frankie needs no testimony from me. He’s been great for the sport in every way; on the horse, off the horse or flying off the horse. His accomplishments speak for themselves. He’s a good friend and he will be missed. I hope he reconsiders his retirement by picking up mounts as he chooses over the coming months.”
With two such strong chances for the world’s most valuable race, who would Zedan side with? “You don’t prefer a kid over another,” said Zedan. “We’ve had brilliant moments with both and they’re both my boys. Everyone needs to be given their best shot and as long as one of them crosses the wire first I’ll be a happy camper.”
Zedan Racing Stables also have a possible runner in the $1.5 million Saudi Derby with Hejazi. Zedan said: “He’s a great horse and just needed some time to grow into his frame. He was beaten by some very fast sprinters last year and produced a 101 Beyer Time Figure in his two-year-old season which is almost unheard of. He’s been a bit unlucky, he’s produced some great numbers.”