Tower Of London delivers Aidan O’Brien first success in Saudi Arabia

Winner of $2.5m handicap likely to be in Ballydoyle team for next month’s Dubai World Cup programme in Meydan

Aidan O’Brien added Saudi Arabia to his international CV with Tower Of London’s dramatic and hugely lucrative success in Riyadh on Saturday. Ballydoyle’s runner landed the $2.5 million Red Sea Handicap under Ryan Moore on the Saudi Cup card where US outsider Senor Buscador emerged on top in the $20 million feature on dirt.

Luxembourg had been expected to be O’Brien’s best chance of a first success in Saudi Arabia but he managed only fourth in a Group Two behind Spirit Dancer, part owned by the former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Instead Tower Of London, a brother to Irish Derby and Leger winner Capri, overcame a nightmare route from the rear of the field to nail Enemy in the shadow of the post of an almost two-mile race.

“We eventually got out and he got there at the end. Today was the first time he was able to run on a flat track on quick ground and Aidan has had a lot of faith,” said Moore.


It continued a profitable start to 2024 for the O’Brien team who were successful with Warm Heart in a $1 million contest on the Pegasus Cup card in Florida last month. With the start of Ireland’s flat season just three weeks away, Ballydoyle’s Riyadh raid reflects the Middle East’s growing influence on the international calendar.

O’Brien won with Order Of Australia in Qatar last year and previously struck at the Dubai World Cup meeting in 2013 when St Nicholas Abbey landed the Sheema Classic. He has also won the UAE Derby there on three occasions. Broome scored in the Dubai Gold Cup in Meydan last year.

That race is likely to be next for Tower Of London although Ballydoyle’s standard bearer on Meydan’s €30.5 million World Cup programme at the end of next month is set to be Auguste Rodin. The dual-Derby, Irish Champion Stakes and Breeders’ Cup champion is on course to line up in the $6 million Sheema Classic. He continued his preparations by working at Dundalk last week.

In the longer term Tower Of London has opened up a Saudi avenue for European racing’s most powerful operation.

MV Magnier represented the Coolmore ownership at the King Abdulaziz racecourse.

“In fairness to Aidan he was quite confident coming out here, and Ryan said he was going to take his time. He’s pretty cool, relaxed and nothing fazes him. I haven’t spoken to Aidan yet but I’d say the chances are he could go for Dubai Gold Cup. but it’ll be up to Aidan and the lads. I’ve been here for the past few days, it’s remarkable the welcome we’ve got, and the people have been brilliant,” Magnier said.

The other Irish runner on Saturday’s card, Kieran Cotter’s Matilda Picotte, finished fifth in a Group Two sprint. “Super run. She was drawn widest, she was taken on for the lead and had to do a lot of work. Going round a bend on ground as fast as that would not be her ideal conditions but she gave everything,” said jockey Oisin Murphy.

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Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column