On paper, the world's richest race, the Saudi Cup, run in Riyadh Feb. 20, appeared to lie between a pair of United States challengers, Charlatan and Knicks Go. For much of the race that was how things went, with Charlatan, coming off a victory in the Runhappy Malibu Stakes (G1), outfooting Knicks Go, who had scored front-running triumphs in the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) on his last two starts, for the early lead, then repulsing his rival's attempt to assert himself at the head affairs. The duo were still at the head of affairs late on final turn, but Knicks Go was spent at this stage. But, while Charlatan had defeated the horse who appeared to be his most dangerous foe, it proved to be something of a pyrrhic victory. Drafting behind the dueling leaders for much of the race was the English-trained Mishriff, and as Mishriff produced his challenge down the long Riyadh straight, the mid-race effort of Charlatan began to take it's toll, and bravely as the Bob Baffert-trained runner fought on, he was unable to resist Mishriff's final charge, which took him to the wire a length to the good.
On reflection, it can be seen that Mishriff was probably a more dangerous opponent than the odds made him appear, especially given clear possibility that the U.S. duo would soften each other up on the front end. Not only had Mishriff run creditably on his sole previous outing on the dirt, he also owned top-class form beyond the nine furlongs of the Saudi Cup, whereas that distance is probably at least half a furlong beyond the ideal for Charlatan and Knicks Go.
Now 4, Mishriff has generally been a steady improver through his career. He took a maiden at Nottingham in good style on the third of three starts as a juvenile. The following year, after recovering from an awkward start to claim second in the Samba Saudi Derby, Mishriff gained successive wins in the Betfair Exchange Free Bet Streak Newmarket Stakes, the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby, G1), and the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano—Haras du Logis Saint-Germain (G2), where he underlined his progression by scoring by 4 1/2 lengths from The Summit, who'd only been 1 3/4 lengths in arrears when filling runner-up spot in the Prix du Jockey Club. Mishriff's only other run that term was an unplaced effort in the QIPCO Champion Stakes (G1) on heavy ground last October.
Mishriff is a member of the first crop of Make Believe, a horse who retired to stud as a proven top-class racehorse, but with a less than pedigree. Winner of both his starts at 2, Make Believe lost his unbeaten record going down by a head in the Prix Djebel (G3) over seven furlongs on very soft going. He rebounded in style in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains—Prix Le Parisien (French Two Thousand Guineas, G1), quickening clear to score comfortably by three lengths from New Bay, who would take the Prix du Jockey Club on his next outing. Make Believe's reappearance was less spectacular, as racing on fast ground for the first time, he trailed home fifth of five behind Gleneagles in the St. James's Palace Stakes (G1). Make Believe wasn't seen out again for close to four months, when he ran out a comfortable winner of the Qatar Prix de la Foret (G1) on the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) undercard. He made just one more start, finishing fifth albeit beaten only 4 1/2 lengths by Tepin, in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T).
Make Believe's sire, Makfi, had both pedigree and performance on his side when he began his stud career. Champion European 3-year-old miler and joint-champion 3-year-old colt in Europe, Makfi earned group 1 victories in the Stanjames.com Two Thousand Guineas (G1) and Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard-Jacques Le Marois (G1). Makfi was a son of Dubawi, another classic-winning miler, and a horse who has been second only to Galileo among European sires for most of the last decade. Makfi's dam, Dhelaal, is a Green Desert half brother to champion European 2-year-old, Alhaarth, and the second is a half sister to Green Dancer, winner of three group 1 races, including the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, and later a major sire.
Despite his impressive credentials, Makfi, proved to be somewhat disappointing as a stallion and although he has 19 stakes winners from his first seven Northern Hemisphere crops, only nine are group winners and the only other group 1 scorer is the 2019 Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1) winner Mkfancy. He's also sired 16 stakes winners, nine group, from six crops in New Zealand, three grade 1, including Bonneval, successful in the Wellfield New Zealand Oaks (G1), James Boags Premium Australian Oaks (G1), and Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes (G1), and Sofia Rosa, who took the Australian Oaks one year before Bonneval.
Make Believe has made a start which promises that he may outperform his sire, and he's had five black-type winners in his first crop, with Mishriff being joined by Rose of Kildare, Believe In Love, and Ocean Fantasy as winners at group level.
Mishriff's dam, Contradict, was a useful winner and came within a nose of earning some black-type when fourth in the 10-furlong Height of Fashion Stakes. She is a daughter of the European-trained Elusive Quality horse, Raven's Pass, best remembered in the U.S. for his victory in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) on the then all-weather surface at Santa Anita Park. She's produced another black-type winner in French listed scorer Orbaan. The granddam, Acts of Grace (by Bahri), recorded a group success in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Princess Royal Stakes (G3). She was one of four stakes winners produced by the Prix de Diane (French Oaks, G1) heroine, Rafha, the others including the outstanding sire, Invincible Spirit (by Green Desert, who also appears in Make Believe's pedigree), as well as Kodiac a group-placed runner and record-breaking sire of 2-year-olds. Rafha's dam, Eljazzi, has been a very important foundation mare, and her other descendants include Uni, who defeated males to take the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile; Pinatubo, the European champion 2-year-old of 2019; and Pride Of Dubai, the Champion Australian 2-year-old of 2014-15.
Mishriff is a production of what appears to be a rapidly emerging cross, that of Dubawi line stallions with Raven's Pass mares, which has already produced four stakes winners from just nine starters, this being a specific version of the successful Dubawi/Gone West cross.
The only duplicated ancestor in the first five generations of Mishriff's pedigree is Nijinsky II, who appears 5x5, but there are some more complex and significant patterns further back. Make Believe and Raven's Pass are both from the Mr. Prospector line, and Mr. Prospector's dam was by Nashua, a son of Nasrullah, and from the Myrtlewood branch of the famed Frizette family. Mishriff also has four crosses of Never Bend (three through the close relatives Mill Reef and Riverman), and Never Bend was by Nasrullah out of a mare by Djeddah, a horse inbred to Frizette. Make Believe's second dam is by Distant Relative, whose third dam is the noted producer, Natasha (by Nasrullah and from the Frizette family). Natasha reappears in the pedigree—this time on the distaff side—as the fourth dam of Elusive Quality. Finally, Mishriff's second dam is by Riverman's son, Bahri, whose own granddam, Champion Irish 2-year-old filly, Highest Trump, is by a grandson of Nasrullah, and from the Myrtlewood branch of Frizette.