Race Day Odds, Bets You Should Make, And The Biggest Run Of Taiba’s Young Checkered Life

Race day for the Saudi Cup inevitably means some early morning sweat for players as they try to get the more complex architecture for their tickets in place before lunch: Post time for the $20-million feature is promptly, today, at 12:25 Eastern. None of that whole “we-got-till-cocktail-hour” kind of folderol that they’d enjoy in May at Churchill is permitted today. Got to pick some horses and lay the ducats down.

As for the $20 million Saudi Cup, Taiba’s trainer Bob Baffert will be hoping that his charge Taiba doesn’t deliver a repeat his 2022 Kentucky Derby performance, pictured above, during which he ran twelfth out of twenty horses, a lackluster demonstration of juvenile confusion in which he just barely bested Crown Pride of Japan, whom he will hope to face down in Riyadh at post time today. In fairness, Taiba had just two races under his girth when he strolled into the Churchill paddock to be saddled. Yes, he was three, but he was a very young three. The Derby did what the Derby does to young horses sometimes: It freaked him out.

According to his storied trainer, now the four-year-old is filling out and maturing mightily. Here’s what Baffert said to the press from the winner’s enclosure at Santa Anita as Taiba put on a commanding performance to take the Malibu last December: “At the top of the stretch, it almost looks like he’s gutted, but that’s the way he is. He’s very deceiving. If you watch him in the mornings, he’ll never get a clocker’s eye. He’ll surprise you in the afternoon.” Baffert added the key sentence, “The further the better for him.”

That means this beautiful chestnut colt comes into a race late, but he has staying power and often takes the win. Taiba has to ‘wake up’ in a race — actually, he does better if he wakes up before the race. Longer races favor this slow-off-the-mark-but-powerful style of running. At nine furlongs, or 1.11 miles, the Saudi Cup is only of medium length; it’s certainly not a six- or seven-furlong sprint, but neither is it the Kentucky Derby, or for that matter, the 1.5-mile-long Belmont.

Note: As we have noted, at King Abdulaziz, the program numbers precede the post positions. Before we delve into the race and the many ways in which we should bet it, herewith, an odds refresher out of London, where the take-no-prisoners bookmakers have as predicted taken no prisoners. Notably, Taiba has only moved a hair. In stark contrast, the British have restored Country Grammer firmly to second-favorite status while relegating the beloved-by-Brisnet Cafe Pharoah down to the middle of the pack, at 14-1. Them’s the breaks on race day in London. The gentlemen know a thing or two about horses. In salute to that, we’ll be updating out of London until post time.

(Program Number, Post Position, Horse, Updated London Odds)

1, 13. Café Pharoah, 14-1

2, 10. Country Grammer, 3-1

3, 3. Crown Pride, 12-1

4, 8. Emblem Road, 10-1

5, 12. Geoglyph, 22-1

6, 6. Jun Light Bolt, 15-2

7, 1. Panthalassa, 10-1

8, 7. Remorse, 50-1

9, 4. Scotland Yard, 9-1

10, 2. Taiba, 2-1

11, 9. Vin De Garde, 50-1

12, 11. Lagertha Rhyme, 80-1

13, 5. Sunset Flash, 66-1

(Odds: William Hill, 2/25/2023)

Taiba’s esteemed jockey Mike Smith had this to say to the press about his equine colleague after the four-and-a-half-length Malibu win last December: “That horse is like a bike, and you have to pedal. Going long you don’t have to do it as much, but I knew that going short it would be tough.”

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