Laying the new turf course

A new turf course is being laid in Riyadh by the team responsible for Lords’ cricket grounds, the grass courts at Wimbledon, the straight mile at Ascot and pitches at three football World Cups.

They’ve sourced the ideal combination of gravel and sand, perfect for growing the best possible turf track.

Richard Stuttard, Head of Consultancy at STRI Group explains more.

Two new races added to the undercard for the world’s richest race

Eight contests on Saudi Cup day will offer US$29.2m in prize money.

The world’s richest horse race – the US$20m Saudi Cup – will have a glittering support card with two more exciting races announced today, bringing the total prize fund to US$29.2 million.

And, at a special event in Riyadh, HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia, told some 300 racing professionals and media, how each and every race would be contended by horses trained in the Kingdom as well as by the world’s best.

Added to the card for the race, being run at the state-of-the-art King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh on February 29th, 2020, are:

  • An international race for Arabian horses over 2000m (10f) on dirt, worth US$1,900,000, for four-year-olds and up.
  • A handicap for thoroughbreds trained in Saudi Arabia over 1800m (9f) on dirt, worth US$500,000, for four-year-olds and up.

HRH Prince Bandar revealed that at least two places in each of the seven international races – including the US$20m Saudi Cup itself and the three races on the new turf course at King Abdulaziz Racetrack – would be reserved for Saudi-trained horses.

‘Our Saudi Cup day is providing all of us here in the racing community of Saudi Arabia with wonderful new opportunities,’ said HRH Prince Bandar.

‘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 is about growing our sport in the Kingdom for the Kingdom.’

The Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia also disclosed details of the autumn race schedule and new rules regarding race day medication, bringing the Kingdom into line with other racing nations, including Britain, France, Ireland and Dubai.

HRH Prince Bandar is looking forward to the racing community reaching out to potential new fans. ‘Our people have raced their horses across the dunes for many centuries,’ he said.

‘Today, that passion is a mature sport with 50 years of organisation behind us. 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.’

Three turf races announced on $6.8m undercard to Saudi Cup day

A model of the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh

The world’s richest race, the US$20m Saudi Cup, will have a glittering support card for its inaugural running on February 29th, 2020. HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia, announced five new international races at a Saudi Cup launch event today at Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly, London.

Three of the five new races on the undercard will be run on a new turf course, with the other two to be run on the highly acclaimed dirt track on which the 1800m (9f) Saudi Cup itself will be contested. Prize money for the five races totals US$6,800,000. They are:

  • A staying handicap on turf over 3000m (15f), with a total race value of US$2,500,000, a first prize of US$1,500,000, and weights ranging from 62kg to 54kg.
  • A middle-distance turf race over 2100m (10.5f) for four-year-olds and upwards, with a total race value of US$1,000,000 and a first prize of US$600,000.
  • A turf sprint over 1350m (6.7f) for four-year-olds and upwards, with a total race value of US$1,000,000 and a first prize of US$600,000.
  • A dirt sprint over 1200m (6f) for three-year-olds and upwards, with a total race value of US$1,500,000 and a first prize of US$900,000.
  • A dirt mile race for three-year olds over 1600m(8f), with a total race value of US$800,000 and a first prize of US$480,000.

‘We believe the new races will help make Saudi Cup Day a wonderful sporting occasion,’ said HRH Prince Bandar. ‘And we will be thrilled to welcome international competitors to these new races. I am especially pleased that we will be having turf racing in Riyadh for the first time. Things are really beginning to take shape.’

The launch, compered by Nick Luck and Britney Eurton, was attended by trainers and jockeys keen to hear about the lucrative new race day. Leading trainer John Gosden said, ‘These races will offer terrific targets for a range of horses – from sprinters to stayers, plus a mile race for three-year-olds which is worth a good deal more than the early classics. I’m already thinking about which horses I could take.’

The Saudi Cup will be staged at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh which has been hosting racing and international jockeys for many years.

One familiar face to have frequently raced in Saudi Arabia is Frankie Dettori, who also appeared on stage at the event. He said, ‘The quality of the dirt track in Riyadh is second to none. I’ve ridden European horses on it, and they take to it really well, and the new turf track will give the day even more appeal. The welcome awaiting any jockey competing in the Kingdom is exceptional. The hospitality of the Saudi racing fraternity is amazing and there is a real passion for the sport. I hope I’ll be there on the starting line come February 29.’

The feature race of the event – the Saudi Cup itself, will have a maximum field of 14 runners and be run over 1800m (9f) on dirt. The prize for the winning horse will be $10m with horses down to 10th place sharing another $10m between them.

Horseracing in the Kingdom stretches back more than five decades since the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia was formed in 1965. ‘The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horse racing in Saudi Arabia,’ said HRH Prince Bandar. ‘It demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and also our ambition to become a leading player on horse racing’s world stage.’

Gronkowski and Axelrod aimed at the Saudi Cup

Speaking at a launch event for the new Saudi Cup, Phoenix Thoroughbreds Vice President Tom Ludt reiterated their plan to run both Gronkowski and Axelrod in the Riyadh contest on February 29th, 2020.

Set to become the richest race in the world, the latest addition to the racing calendar has been on the agenda of the Dubai based group ever since the Dubai World Cup last March, where Gronkowski bounced back to form to finished second to Thunder Snow and Axelrod ran a very credible race in midfield.

In the case of Gronkowski the owners plan to use the February date as the middle leg of an ambitious winter campaign for the son on Lonhro that will see the colt take in the Pegasus World Cup (in Florida in January) and have another crack at the Meydan showpiece.

Outlining the plan in front of the world’s media at the Saudi Cup launch event in Saratoga, USA, on August 7th, Tom Ludt said:

“Obviously Phoenix Thoroughbred has jumped into the international market in a big way, and we are very supportive of the international game. Things like this are what the game is all about, and we will be extremely supportive.

“Gronkowski and Axelrod are both in Dubai right now resting and getting ready to get back to full form, and our intention is to have both of those run in the Saudi Cup. We are very excited, and we think this is what the international game needs. We’re international players, so we’re very much supportive and god willing if they are good, they’ll be there.”

The Saudi Cup will take place over 1800m (9f) on February 29th, 2020 with $20mllion on offer in prize money. For more information about the new race click here.

Saudi Arabia to stage world’s richest race in February 2020

The world has a new richest race, with the announcement of the creation of the $20m Saudi Cup, to be run at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh on February 29th, 2020. Details of the contest were announced by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia, at a launch event in Saratoga today.

The race will be run on Saturday February 29th, 2020 over a distance of nine furlongs (1800 metres) on dirt and have a maximum field of 14 starters. The race will be free to enter and free to run in.

The prize for the winning horse will be US$10,000,000 with horses down to 10th place sharing another US$10,000,000 between them.

Announcing the creation of the Saudi Cup, His Royal Highness Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, said: “The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horseracing in Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and also our ambition to become a leading player on horseracing’s world stage.

“We look forward to welcoming international horsemen and women, the media, racing enthusiasts and the public to Riyadh in 2020.”

The Saudi Cup will take its place in the international calendar at the end of February and will be run four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, and four weeks prior the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, meaning that the top horses in training have the opportunity to compete in all three of the most valuable dirt races in the world.

The prizemoney of the Saudi Cup places it in esteemed company. The Pegasus World Cup had a peak value of US$16 million in 2018 while the Dubai World Cup is currently worth US$12 million. In terms of turf races, the richest is in Australia (the Everest) and is worth US$9.8 million, in Japan the mark is US$6 million for the Japan Cup and Europe’s most lucrative event (the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe) has a prize fund of US$5.6 million.

HRH Prince Bandar’s connection to horses is an emotional one as less than a century ago, his great grandfather, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, a renowned rider and the founding father of modern Saudi Arabia, was leading his army into battle on horseback, earning himself the title ‘The Last Horseman’.

In 1932 King Abdulaziz unified the kingdoms of Nejd and Hijaz in creating the new sovereign state of Saudia Arabia. Horseracing soon became an important cultural event within the young nation and its status was enhanced in 2003 with the opening of a new racecourse in Riyadh, King Abdulaziz Racetrack, with a mile and a quarter (2000 metre) circumference, a three-furlong (600 metre) chute and a state-of-the-art dirt racing surface.

Many of the world’s leading jockeys have ridden regularly at King Abdulaziz Racetrack over the past few years and been impressed with its facilities.

Europe’s jockey of the moment Frankie Dettori said: “I’ve been going to King Abdulaziz Racetrack ever since it opened. It’s based on Belmont, in that it’s a one turn mile and a quarter. Of all the dirt tracks I’ve ridden, it’s the one I like best, as you can win from the front, and you can win from behind – it’s a fair track.

“The other thing I like is that the kickback is so much less than on other dirt tracks. I don’t know why, but the sand seems finer and doesn’t stick. You only need a couple of pairs of goggles, where on other tracks you need four or five.

“It’s a kinder track that I can see turf horses handling.”

US jockey Edgar Prado was also enthusiastic: “In my experience, all the time I rode at King Abdulaziz Racetrack I’ve found the track good and safe with a nice stretch run. Horses handle it very well.”

France’s four-time Champion jockey Olivier Peslier added: “King Abdulaziz Racetrack is one of the best dirt tracks in the world. A wonderful track and I know that the American jockeys like it very much because it really suits the American horses.

“It has a long straight and there is not much kickback.”

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will arrange and fund the shipment of all invited horses, and arrange and pay for the flights and hotel accommodation of the horses’ connections. In addition to the Saudi Cup, there will be further international races on the undercard ahead of the showcase race. Further details of these supporting races and the full race programme will be announced at a later date.

For more information, please contact:

Tom Ryan, Director of Strategy and International Racing for the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia: tryan@thesaudicup.com +353 (0)87 242 3051

Alastair Donald of the International Racing Bureau: alastair@irbracing.com +44 (0)7802 208220

Prince Bandar gathers his Saudi Cup team in Saratoga

The team behind the world’s richest race – the Saudi Cup, to be run on February 29th, 2020 – has converged on Saratoga Springs ahead of the official launch of the new landmark contest on Wednesday evening. Led by HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Cup organisers also include HRH Prince Abdullah bin Khalid al Saud, the race’s Global Ambassador Harry Herbert, racecourse officials Tom Ryan and Adel Almazroa, plus Alastair Donald of the International Racing Bureau. Presenters Nick Luck and Britney Eurton will be hosting the presentation at famed auction house Fasig-Tipton, assisted by Frankie Dettori and Gary Stevens.

‘It’s an enormous pleasure to be in this historic racing resort among horse people from around the world,’ said Prince Bandar. ‘We are looking forward to telling them the plans for our race and being as hospitable to them when they visit Saudi Arabia as they have been to us here.’ The Saudi Cup commemorates the founding of Saudi Arabia as a nation state by King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, father of the reigning King Salman, in 1932. That year, the world’s richest race was the Agua Caliente Handicap won by fabled antipodean superstar Phar Lap.

One of the features of the launch will be interviews with jockeys who have long experience of competing in Riyadh. With a similar topography to Belmont Park, the King Abdulaziz Racetrack is reputed to have one of the finest dirt surfaces in the world.

For more information, please contact:

Tom Ryan, Director of Strategy and International Racing for the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia: tryan@thesaudicup.com +353 (0)87 242 3051

Alastair Donald of the International Racing Bureau: alastair@irbracing.com +44 (0)7802 208220

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