Panthalassa Completes Japanese Success Story In The Saudi Cup
25 February 2023
25 February 2023 – The fourth running of the US$20,000,000 Saudi Cup went the way of Japan for the first time courtesy of the Yoshito Yahagi-trained Panthalassa (JPN) as he saw off all challengers for a historic wire-to-wire victory.
It was an evening for the powerful racing nation to rejoice, with Panthalassa’s all the way success under veteran jockey Yutaka Yoshida meaning that Bob Baffert’s American raider Country Grammer (USA) had to once again settle for the runner-up place in Riyadh.
In four renewals, victory in The Saudi Cup has gone to four different nations with the Japanese winner becoming the latest to win the world’s most valuable race, now proving his capability on both dirt and turf.
Yahagi was among the winning trainers last year when Japanese-trained runners claimed four races on the card and the strength of horse racing in the country was confirmed once again on Saturday with three more in front of an appreciative crowd at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
For the globally popular trainer Yahagi, it was a second winner of the evening, following up from Bathrat Leon’s win in the 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc. It was also an unforgettable night for owners Hiroo Race Co Ltd, who owned both Yahagi’s winners.
Momentarily in the latter stages it appeared that Japanese runners would fill the first three places, but Country Grammer finished with a flourish down the outside to claim second, half a length adrift, from Cafe Pharoah (JPN) in third with Geoglyph (JPN) and Crown Pride (JPN), both also trained in Japan, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Last year's winner Emblem Road (USA) was sixth and the best of the four locally-trained runners. The winning time was 1:50.80.
Yutaka Yoshida, jockey, Panthalassa, 1st: "When he drew barrier one my tactic was simply to take a lead. He sometimes doesn’t jump well so I concentrated on giving him a good start and he did it. When he took an early lead the others did not give too much pressure to him. The pace was not too strong for him, it was another factor for him to keep finding until the line.
"I did break well and then it was straightforward. Mr Yahagi said to me to ride my race and I would get a good result. So, I didn't think about the surface. I just rode my race and thought if he adapts to the track, it would be all right. Of course, they were coming for me in the straight, but Panthalassa always found another gear and so I kept riding. It is an unforgettable moment and I am very happy to have ridden the winner."
Yoshito Yahagi, trainer, Panthalassa: "Panthalassa had a perfect start today. I applaud Yutaka's jump, it was a masterful job from the jockey. When I drew barrier one I thought this was a big advantage to him but it worked perfectly.
"I really can't believe it. I don't know if it is real at the moment. Thank you to my staff and to my horse. This horse only has one way to go. He jumped really well when he needed to and got the job done. I think I was correct that my feeling was right that he could handle the dirt. You know this is not easy. Japanese racing tries everything to improve and develop. Japanese horse racing has become more international. Of course, this is the best feeling as the prize-money is the best!
"I will discuss with my owner after the conference and then we will decide if we go to Dubai for the World Cup, which is of course a possibility. If my owners let me go to Europe, I would love the challenge. When I started training, no one knew me and when I wore a hat they knew who I was. Today, I wore the same hat I wore at the Breeders’ Cup. I have between 200 and 300 hats. I don't count. It would be fun if they started a game where they bet on the colour of my hat."
Naoki Yoneyama, president of Hiroo Race Co Ltd, owners, Panthalassa: "This was the team’s win. I have been in 100 per cent trust for Team Yahagi so I was fully confident before the race. I would like to share the tremendous joy with the team."
Frankie Dettori, jockey, Country Grammer, 2nd: "He ran a super race. At the top of the straight, I thought, ‘Oh god, I’m going to finish sixth’ but he just has too much heart. He wants a mile and a quarter [2000m]. Super result. They were coming back to me, but the winning post was there."
Joao Moreira, jockey, Cafe Pharoah, 3rd: "The wide draw didn’t help but I was able to get him into a position where he was inside and saving ground. He hit the line very strongly and we nearly won the race. I’m extremely happy with his run."
Christophe Lemaire, jockey, Geoglyph, 4th: "He ran very well for a first try on the dirt. He travelled comfortably and chased the lead smoothly. We came and attacked Panthalassa but we couldn’t get to him. It was still a very good run."
Alexis Moreno, jockey, Emblem Road, 6th: "He ran okay. We tried to come through but the others had run away."
Ryan Moore, jockey, Jun Light Bolt, 7th: "I don’t think he handled the track too well, it was a bit disappointing."
Tadhg O’Shea, jockey, Remorse, 9th: "He ran okay. It was a very good race and I tried to stay out of the kickback but it’s often what happens in these races."
Hideaki Fujiwara, trainer, Vin de Garde, 11th: "He got a lot of kickback on his first time run on dirt and didn’t move well He will run solid next time on turf in Dubai, which is where he likes."