Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Shortly after the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia announced the creation of the Saudi Cup as the world's richest horse race, American trainer Bob Baffert mused, "If you put up $20 million, you'll get good horses in your starting gate."
The list of nominations to the Feb. 29 race, released Tuesday, proved him right as 143 horses were nominated to the 12-horse field, including Baffert's own McKinzie.
The list also includes, as expected, Grade 1-winning mare Midnight Bisou, trained by Steve Asmussen, and Grade I Cigar Mile (G1) winner and four-time Grade I star, Maximum Security, conditioned by Jason Servis.
While the big names are American, the 143 nominations to the Saudi Cup represent more than 60 trainers from 16 countries spread over four continents. Only 14 will be chosen to run in the first edition of the race with $10 million going to the winner.
The winner of the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Jan. 25 also gains automatic entry to the Saudi Cup. And an opportunity exists for supplemental nominations -- for $200,000 -- on Feb 18. Original entries were free.
The undercard races at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, including three to be run on a new turf course, drew an equally powerful contingent, with representation from around the globe including Investec Derby and Melbourne Cup winners.
The featured turf event is the $2.5 million Neom Turf Cup, to be run at 10 1/2 furlongs or just more than 1 1/4 miles. The entries for that include 2019 Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck and Magic Wand. Both are trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien and the latter, a confirmed globetrotter, captured the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes in Australia in November.
The Neom Turf Cup also attracted Japanese star Deirdre, winner of the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last year. Benbatl, representing Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, is cross-entered in the Neom Turf Cup and The Saudi Cup.
The $2.5 million Red Sea Turf Handicap for stayers at 1 7/8 miles drew 2018 Melbourne Cup winner, Cross Counter, also from Sheik Mohammed's Godolphin operation, as well as Prince of Arran and O'Brien's Kew Gardens.
"The response to the Saudi Cup from the international racing community has been fantastic," said Tom Ryan, Director of Strategy and International Racing for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.
"We couldn't be happier with the entries that we've received and we are now fully focused on putting on a spectacular first Saudi Cup race day to live up to the caliber of these entries."
Entries will be whittled down to final fields based on ratings allocated by former British Horseracing Authority senior handicapper Phil Smith.