With all eyes on Country Grammer, local hero Emblem Road was a complete outsider at the 2022 Saudi Cup. And when he was the last to break from the stalls, even his most optimistic supporters were silenced at the packed King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh.
But, in life, and in racing, well begun is only half done.
The Moutaib Almulaway-trained horse was seventh in a field of 14 turning into the straight before jockey Wigberto Ramos turned on the turbo boost. Emblem Road reeled in the American and Japanese superstars in quick succession, before beating overwhelming favourite Country Grammer by a head.
The 2023 Saudi Cup was not as successful when the five-year-old finished middle of the pack, but Hisham Abdulwahed, Almulaway’s assistant, is certain the $12 million Dubai World Cup will be positive change of scenario for the Prince Saud bin Salman Abdulaziz-owned horse.
Abdulwahed’s confidence stems from the fact that Emblem Road has travelled the short distance across the border really well. That contrasts to his first outing outside Saudi Arabia — a Group 3 race in Vicy, France last year – where he was fifth.
“I think he is now better even compared to the time when he won the Saudi Cup, but I don’t want to speculate about his chances,” said Abdulwahed.
“We have been talking about it this morning and we think he is becoming quite the traveller. When he went to France last year, it was like a new experience for him. He became aware that things were different.
“But this time, when he came here to Dubai, and it is a short distance compared to France, it didn’t bother him much.”
A couple of features of Dubai World Cup should also work to Emblem Road’s favour. One, the nature of the dirt in Meydan compared to what he is used to at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack, and the fact that the World Cup is run over 2,000 metres, 200 metres (approximately one furlong) more than the nine-furlong run in Riyadh.
“The surface in Dubai will suit him well. The dirt at Meydan is harder than what we have in Saudi. And from what we saw on the first day, we think he is happy on it,” explained Abdulwahed.
“I think he performed really good in Saudi. He was late in his start, but he was very strong towards the finish and even after the finish, he was still coming very strong. We think the extra 200 metres here is going to be to his advantage.”
Abdulwahed believes the Dubai World Cup is the ideal stepping stone for Emblem Road as his owners plan a stint in the United States very soon.
“He is just a great horse…very special. He put our name on the international map, and hopefully, he will do it again one more time,” said the assistant trainer.
“Him winning the Saudi Cup was a huge moment for us, a huge moment for the horse and for the people of Saudi Arabia. International people are now more aware of racing in Saudi. Even this year, we had a locally-trained horse (Commissioner King, trained by Sabah Alshammri) winning the Saudi Derby.
“This is hopefully the first stage of his international journey. We are looking at going international, and to races in the US. Hopefully, it is going to be a great career for him.”
> Emblem Road is a five-year-old horse and has raced from 2022
> He was sired by Quality Road out of the Bernardini mare Venturini
> He was bred in Kentucky, United States
> He is trained by Ahmad Abdulwahad
> He has raced and won at King Abdulaziz (Saudi Arabia), Vichy (France)
> His stakes wins include wins in the 2022 Saudi Cup (G1), and the 2022 King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Cup
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