Saudi Cup 2024 Review: Senor Buscador Swoops Late for 16/1 Shock

Senor BuscadorSenor Buscador appeared from nowhere to steal the $20 million Saudi Cup 2024 at Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on February 24. Run over a mile and an eighth on dirt it is the most valuable horse race in the world and attracts the best horses from across the globe. Senor Buscador was sent off at 16/1 but provided a sensational spectacle in the stretch.

Trained by the New Mexico-based Todd Fincher, Senor Buscador produced a nail-biting late surge under Junior Alvarado. Three hundred meters from home he had only two horses behind him but his nose lowered at the right moment on the wire. He beat Japan’s Ushba Tesoro (11/2) a head. Ridden by Yuga Kawada, Ushba Tesoro headed the long-time leader, Saudi Crown (25/1), approaching the wire only to be robbed of victory in the final strides. The gallant Saudi Crown finished third, beaten a length.

Senor Buscador was last seen a month ago getting narrowly beaten by Bob Baffert’s National Treasure (8/1) in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational 2024 at Gulfstream Park. In early December he was runner-up to Dallas Stewart’s Hoist The Gold (40/1) in the valuable grade 2 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct. That was contested over a mile on a muddy track and was the first time Alvarado got the ride.

Previously partnered by Geovanni Franco, Senor Buscador was beaten five lengths and unplaced under him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but took third in the grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes in October at Santa Anita. He had not managed to get his head in front since the grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar in July 2023. He richly deserved another win and settled the score with a number of horses that had previously beaten him.

This six-year-old son of Mineshaft was owned and bred by Joe Peacock and his similarly named son out of Rose’s Desert, a Desert God dam. Rose’s Desert was owned and bred by them too, she was also trained by Fincher and was successful in sprints. Joe Peacock Jr mentioned that Senor Buscador was the last horse he had bred with his late father. The family have been breeding horses for over 50 years.

Fincher admitted he was close to tears after Senor Buscador’s Saudi Cup triumph. He thought his star trainee had often been under-rated because he needs luck in a race. He has always been a closer and often encounters traffic issues as a result.

The 2024 Saudi Cup was the first time Senor Buscador had not carried the Peacock family’s green and blue silks. After his Pegasus placing a leading share in him was purchased by Sharaf Mohammed Al Hariri. His win will be recorded as one for Saudi Arabia as a result.

What happened in the Saudi Cup 2024?

It was a fairly even break for the majority of the field of 14, Ushba Tesoro was the only one who was slowly away. Senor Buscador broke well from gate four but totally ignored the fierce contest for the lead. Saudi Crown broke well from the five gate and was pushed forward to join the skirmish for the lead by Florent Geroux. He won that battle and headed the pack on the rail. National Treasure was pushed up by Flavien Prat to shadow him on his outside.

The 11/8 Saudi Cup favorite and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner White Abarrio was guided into a spot just behind the leaders by Irad Ortiz. Doug Watson’s Isolate (25/1) was positioned close to the pace by Joel Rosario as was Hoist The Gold and Koichi Shintani’s Crown Pride (40/1). Senor Buscador raced at the rear of the field with Ushba Tesoro. The local trainees Scotland Yard (80/1) and Power In Numbers (66/1) were also towards the back but still in touch with the pack.

Saudi Crown and National Treasure rounded the turn for home together but Prat was much more animated than Geroux. Crown Pride was also hard driven in third and had Derma Sotogake (5/1) on his outside while Lemon Pop (7/1) made headway on the inside behind them. Hoist The Gold found nothing for pressure and started dropping back as White Abarrio also found the gas running low.

Saudi Crown had gained a two-length lead over National Treasure 200 meters from the wire. Ushba Tesoro was spotted by the race-caller staying on strongly with Senor Buscador two lengths further back. Fifty meters out Ushba Tesoro reached Saudi Crown’s quarters, passing National Treasure but had Senor Buscador looming on his outside. Ushba Tesoro passed the long-time leader a few strides from home but was robbed of victory right on the wire.

National Treasure was beaten nearly two lengths into fourth and had Derma Sotogake and Isolate behind him in that order. The favorite, White Abarrio, was beaten 15 lengths and finished with only four horses behind him.

Saudi Cup Betting Trends

This was the fifth running of the Saudi Cup and not the first time it has been won by a 16/1 shot. Last year another six-year-old, Panthalassa, succeeded at the same starting price for Japan, winning from the front under Yutaka Yoshida. He beat Baffert’s strongly fancied Country Grammer (5/2) under Frankie Dettori. Baffert also saddled the favorite, the impressive grade 1 Malibu Stakes winner Taiba. He was disappointing, finishing eighth, beaten eight lengths through no fault of his jockey, Mike Smith. Trainees from Japan filled four of the first five places.

The year 2022 provided the biggest Saudi Cup surprise for bettors. The locally trained four-year-old Emblem Road succeeded at 50/1 for His Royal Highness Prince Saud Bin Salman. He was a beneficiary of a pace collapse and beat Country Grammer. The titleholder and 100/30 favorite, the UK trained Mishriff, failed to fire and finished last, beaten 80 lengths.

In 2021 Mishriff stole the Saudi Cup purse having started at 8/1 and beat Baffert’s pacesetting Charlatan (2/1) a length. The 7/4 favorite, Brad Cox’s Knicks Go was beaten eight lengths into fourth. The one time the favorite performed as expected was in the inaugural 2020 Saudi Cup. The subsequently disgraced Jason Servis saddled Maximum Security successfully. He paid out for bettors but the prize fund was withheld as there were suspected drug misuse issues. He was a four-year-old, as was Mishriff when victorious. This is a challenging race for bettors and has been a big disappointment for the vast majority of favorites.