An international Purebred Arabian race is added to the Saudi Cup card


An international Purebred Arabian race is added to the Saudi Cup card

The $ 20 million Saudi Cup for English thoroughbreds has gone to the head of the class as the world’s richest race. However, it has also been revealed that a lucrative undercard will feature an international contest for Purebred Arabians at the King Abdulaziz racetrack at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 29th. Open to the four-year-old plus division, and run over 2,000m on the dirt course, it will carry a purse of $ 1.9 million.

Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal, the chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, unveiled the full extent of the details of the the eight race card at a media event in Riyadh, when it was announced that a total of $ 29.2 million will be on offer.

There is no entry fee for any of the races. However, nominations need to be made by midday on Tuesday, January 7th 2020. Races can accommodate a maximum of 14 starters and the fields are determined on an invitation basis by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia. The latter body will the pay travel/accommodation costs of the horses and their connections. It will also pick up the tab for any expenses relating to feed, farrier and veterinary costs.

His Royal Highness Prince Bandar stressed that at least two places in the seven international races, including the US$ 20m Saudi Cup and the three races on the new turf course, will be set aside for Saudi-trained horses.

He said: "Our Saudi Cup day is providing all of us here in the racing community of Saudi Arabia with wonderful new opportunities. For the first time, Saudi jockeys, trainers and owners will be able to pit their talents and their horses against some of the best in the sport. The chance to compete against the world’s finest is the chance to learn from the best. The Saudi Cup is about creating an iconic moment in the global racing calendar, but also, at its heart, it’s about growing our sport in the kingdom for the kingdom."

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia also unveiled details of the autumn race schedule and the new rules governing race day medication, which are designed to bring the kingdom into line with other racing nations, including Britain, France, Ireland and Dubai. This explains why Lasix and bute are banned in the Saudi Cup races.

Prince Bandar is very keen for the racing community to reach out to an audience of new fans. He said: "Our people have raced their horses across the dunes for many centuries. Today, that passion is a mature sport with 50 years of organisation behind it. The Saudi Cup will help us demonstrate our sport to our fellow Saudis, and it is our hope that this marvellous day of sport will excite new generations with the thrill of racing."

The King Abdulaziz racetrack derives its inspiration from the US circuit, Belmont Park. So as to meet the expectations of the Saudi Cup meeting, a new turf track within the existing dirt oval, has been laid. Three English thoroughbred races are scheduled to be run on the grass. The Purebred Arabian feature has been scheduled for the dirt course, although this surface is actually a mixture of dirt and fine woodchips. Olivier Peslier, sixth on Mith’haf Athbah in the Prince Sultan International World Cup won by Tallab Al Kahlediah in January, said:  "It’s one of the best dirt tracks in the world. I know the American jockeys like it very much because it really suits the American horses. It has a long straight of about 400m and there is not much kickback.”

The now retired jockey Ted Durcan enthused: “It’s a fabulous wide, galloping track and, in my experience, the best horse almost always won and there were no hard luck stories. The layout of the racetrack is excellent: the big race will start from a chute down the back straight and so you don’t have the issue of the draw. You can win from anywhere, and there’s a long straight which is a bit like Newbury. I always loved riding there. The racecourse, parade ring and the weighing room were absolutely super. The starting stalls are very modern and based on the American design, and members of the RaceTech team were sent out from England to help instruct the local stalls handlers.”

Granted a first prize of US $1.14 million, the new PA race joins the growing international band of million dollar plus races for Purebred Arabians. The Dubai Kahayla Classic (2,000m, dirt) which forms part of the Dubai World Cup night at the end of March, and the Qatar Arabian World Cup (2,000m, turf) which precedes the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, also take place on high profile English thoroughbred cards. Conversely, the H.H. The Amir Sword (2,400m, turf) and the Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Jewel Crown (1,600m, turf) are the feature races at their respective meetings. However, although the new PA race is now the most valuable, it does not yet carry Gr1 PA status.