On Saturday evening, at the packed King Abdulaziz racecourse, the 2018 Dubai Kahayla Classic winner Tallaab Al Khalediah (KSA) overcame a 10-month absence to lift the inaugural Obaiya Cup (Arabian Classic), now the richest event in the Purebred Arabian racing world with prize-money of $1,900,000.
Ridden by Roberto Perez, who has been based in Saudi Arabia for many years, the Saad Mutlaq trained Tallaab Al Khalediah left the gates to take the lead in the 2000m race and was never threatened. Hajres (TUN), trained in France, closed in on him in the final stages but had to settle for second place, three lengths behind. Mashhur Al Khalediah (FR) finished third.
Prince Fahad, representing owner Al Khalediah Stables, 1st: “He doesn’t like to stay in the back. He always keeps going in the front. That is how he won in Dubai, that’s how he won everywhere. We were just a bit afraid because of his injury, but he has proven himself today. More than being confident, I think we had a lot of pressure to keep the Al Khalediah name up and that was the most pressure. He ran last time in March and thank God it makes us feel so much better and we are now looking forward to going to Dubai once again. I hope he can run again in the Dubai Kahayla Classic. I think it is a historical day for horse racing in Saudi Arabia and a historical day in the racing world whether it is in Saudi Arabia or not. We hope for many more to come.”
Roberto Perez, jockey, Tallab Al Khalediah: “So, you know, we made a plan last night for this race. I know that horse, I have ridden him like 10 times. I know when I worked the horse the last two times, I knew he was going to fight, that he had a great chance to win. He hasn’t run in a long time, not since Dubai. It is a long time, but he has too much class. He is a very good horse. This is a good race to win and I would like to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to ride him, the Prince, the trainer, everyone.”
Christophe Soumillon, jockey, Hajres, 2nd: “He jumped out really well. I was lucky to be just behind the winner. On the turn he was really off the bridle. I thought he’d have trouble to finish the last 400 (metres) but he kept going the whole way and finished second. He was really tough today and quite lazy, but he’s a really nice horse We got beat by the best (Arabian) horse in the world. I was really lucky to be on his back today and I’m proud to see we did a great performance.”
Jean-Bernard Eyquem, jockey, Mashhur Al Khalediah, 3rd: “He ran perfectly but the race was too long for him.”