Panthalassa, a Japanese horse, won the Saudi Cup at the end of February, and the success was welcomed across Japan as the country gained yet another victory on the international stage. No longer is Japan the growing nation in training competitive race horses, but they are one of the leading contenders, with their runners given a respectable place at the top with the leading Japanese sports betting sites.
Further international prizes will be targeted by the Japanese connections between now and the end of the flat season, with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe being the one race that the fans of the sport have craved throughout racing history.
The success of Panthalassa on the dirt in Riyadh will certainly raise hopes that the victory in France’s prestigious Group 1 could soon become a reality.
Panthalassa Upsets The Odds
The Saudi Cup has regularly been a race that has been prone to shock results, with big-priced runners often performing better than the talented multiple-graded victors from across North America. That was no different in 2023, as Panthalassa outran his 16/1 odds to claim a memorable victory for Japan.
The six-year-old traveled stylishly throughout the race, before eventually hitting the front with just over two furlongs remaining. He was challenged in the final 100 yards, but he kept on gamely from the fast-closing Country Grammer. The victory was a strong show of perseverance over the one-mile one-furlong distance and was an upset on paper to many. Pre-race favorite Taiba blew out in the early stages, and could only finish eighth, while previous Saudi Cup winner Emblem Road took sixth.
Country Grammer always appeared to be his biggest danger as the line was approaching, but Yoshito Yahagi’s dreams were answered as his star hunt continued as the line eventually came. There was further Japanese success down the order, with Café Pharoah taking third, ahead of other Japanese-trained runners Geoglyph and Crown Pride, who took fourth and fifth, respectively.
Panthalassa would have been a runner that very few would have flagged up before the off in Saudi Arabia, as the form to suggest a big run over the distance just wasn’t there. The Japanese runner had failed to land a victory in each of his previous four starts, with his most recent win coming at Meydan last March after dead-heating with Lord North.
Furthermore, the fact that his previous win came on the turf in Grade 1 company would have been a concern for many with the Saudi Cup in mind, with both Country Grammer and Taiba landing huge Grade 1 prizes in 2022. But, the victory certainly opens up more doors for the winner, and there will be a huge test on his next start, as he is likely to target the Dubai World Cup in March.
Dubai World Cup
The eyes of the international world will turn to Dubai in late March, as the prestigious Dubai World Cup will be competed for some of the biggest stars across the planet. This Group 1 is competed over a slightly longer distance than the Saudi Cup, with one mile and two furlongs being the distance traveled. This will be a bigger challenge for Panthalassa, as the Japanese runner looked to be fading in the closing stages in Saudi.
That could open the door for Country Grammer, who is better suited to this trip for trainer Bob Baffert. The six-year-old was the winner of this race 12 months ago, in what was a star-studded field which also included Hot Rod Charlie and Life Is Good. Country Grammer’s best career rating was achieved over this distance in 2022, and based on his previous effort in Saudi Arabia it could be hard to bet against him.
Meanwhile, Panthalassa was only tenth on his latest showing over the same distance. The Europeans are also set to have a live chance in the Dubai World Cup, with Algiers for trainer Simon Crisford appearing to have an excellent opportunity. The six-year-old has already landed two wins at Meydan this year, with the latest of those coming by six lengths from Bendoog.
There Are Busy Months Ahead
The Dubai World Cup is the next stop on the international racing calendar, but all the attention will then switch back to domestic matters. US trainers will have the opening leg of the Triple Crown to look ahead to with the Kentucky Derby in early May, while the British Classics get underway with the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas on the same weekend at Newmarket.