The world's richest horse race, the $20million Saudi Cup, is to return next February, along with a new international race, it was announced by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Speaking via video link from King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, HRH Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA), said was keen to build on the success of the inaugural Saudi Cup.
“It’s hard to overstate the success of Saudi Cup 2020 when you consider that in year one of a brand-new international racing event, we attracted some of the very best horses, trainers and jockeys in the world,” he said.
“We witnessed 22 individual Group or Grade 1 winners, who had accumulated an impressive 34 wins at that level between them. That would be an excellent statistic for even the most well-established race meetings in the world, let alone to have that calibre in year one.”
The first staging of the Saudi Cup weekend showcased a number of firsts for the Kingdom and saw the JCSA plan and deliver two days of racing on the world stage. As well as raising the profile of Saudi Arabia as a racing and sporting venue, the event successfully introduced the country’s first turf track, a surface acclaimed by jockeys and trainers, and celebrated the first female jockeys not only to ever ride under Rules in the country, but also to win races.
Scheduled a week earlier in the year than the inaugural event, the Saudi Cup, held over 1800m, remains the highlight of an eight-race card, which now features a boost to the prize money of three dirt races on the undercard.
Last year's Saudi Cup was won by Maximum Security. Saudi officials have confirmed that the prize money won by that horse is still being withheld, pending its own investigations and a US court case into charges against then-trainer Jason Servis, who has issued a not guilty plea. All prize money was paid to the horses who finished behind the winner and the situation remains under review.
In 2020 the Saudi Cup card saw 64 foreign runners, representing ten different countries, take on 26 locally-trained rivals in the seven international races. Five of those races produced overseas victories. Officials hope than an additional international race on the Friday, the 2100m Saudi International Handicap on turf, will help to increased that number further next year.
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