US Star Ron The Greek Takes Dubai World Cup Tilt For New Saudi Connections

Multiple Grade 1 Winner is Saudi-owned, French-based and US-bred

The first 29 races of his career saw Ron the Greek (USA) compete at 14 different US racetracks. Start number 30 landed him clear across the globe.

A multiple graded stakes winner with more than $2.7m in the prize-money bank, the now 7yo son of Full Mandate was targeted for a repeat run in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, but hoof issues forced a cancellation of plans.

Shortly thereafter, Ron the Greek was purchased privately by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, shipped to Saudi Arabia and placed under the care of trainer, Nicholas Bachalard.

“They bought him with Dubai World Cup day in mind,” said Bachalard, who spent 16 years as an assistant to Christophe Clement. “It didn’t take long to get over the foot issue.

“He missed the Breeders’ Cup and had to spend 30 days in quarantine at Payson Park before coming over. We took it easy for a week or two. After that it was straight forward. We carried on with his training.”

Under the name Watani, a Saudi word for “my country”, Ron the Greek returned to the races on February 15, defeating 12 rivals in an 1800m allowance by two-and-a-half lengths.

“It was allowance in name but the competition was good and the horse who ran second is solid,” Bachalard explained. “It was a perfect comeback race. He needed it, the timing was right and the distance suited. We thought about running back [before the World Cup], but a race three weeks out was the only option and the timing wasn’t perfect.”

Bachalard, who is completing his fourth season in Saudi Arabia, trains roughly 50 horses.

“I’m very fortunate to be in this position,” he said. “The facilities and the dirt track at Riyadh are second to none. When they come over, the European and American riders love it.”

American-based jockey, Jose Lezcano, who has piloted Ron the Greek in half his previous starts, has the World Cup riding assignment.

“He probably knows the horse better than we do,” Bachalard said of Lezcano. “It’s a very competitive field, but there are no standouts. You have Dubai World Cup Carnival horses who are proven over the surface and some classy ones who have been laid off. We haven’t run on the all-weather, but he is a good horse and you don’t know until you try.”

Bachalard indicated that the plan is for Ron the Greek to run “at least part of next year” before heading to stud in Saudi Arabia.