The $1,000,000 Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup was the first ever turf race to be held at King Abdulaziz Racetrack and the top spot went to the Bahrain-based Port Lions (IRE) for trainer Fawzi Nass.

After missing the start, Port Lions had to settle with sitting in the back of the pack for the majority of the way around the pristine turf course. As the field turned for home, jockey Adrie de Vries expertly got the horse off the rail and up alongside Group 1-winning Japanese mare, Deirdre (JPN). The two charged down the track to eat away at the lead held by pace setter For The Top (ARG) and at the 50m marker the two had passed the front runner but it was the Irish-bred gelding, Port Lions who got his head in front of Deirdre (JPN) at the wire.

It was a thrilling finish fit for a history-making race that will surely launch Saudi Arabia firmly into the centre of the turf racing world.

Quotes:

Adrie de Vries, jockey, Port Lions, 1st: “This was fantastic, he has been full of confidence since Fawzi got him and he has improved every race. We came here a little bit underestimated I think but our only worry was the trip as it was the furthest he has ran. He missed the kick, I wanted to sit last but maybe not that far. He settled and he’s got a great kick. We almost hit the front too soon. It’s just amazing for the connections. The track is beautiful. I can’t believe in such a short time they were able to make it; it was a dream to ride on. It feels amazing to win. I knew we would run well but I wasn’t sure if we could beat the Japanese filly. It is just a great feeling.”

Fawzi Nass, trainer, Port Lions: It feels absolutely amazing to win the first turf race here in Saudi Arabia. Of course, we came here with some hope but to actually accomplish that is amazing. He missed the break quite badly, which didn’t help but obviously we know he’s got a very nice turn of foot. I wasn’t sure if he could do that from so far back off a slow pace but obviously he managed. He has just improved and improved. He’s a proper fast ground horse and has done very well since he came to Bahrain.”

Oisin Murphy, jockey, Deirdre, 2nd: No excuses. She jumped well, she travelled good. Everything went well except we didn’t win. We got into the right position and on form we would have won easily. It happens, sometimes. The track was very nice and I think they did a great job.”

Mickael Barzalona, jockey, For The Top, 3rd: “He ran well. We made the trip in front and he picked up nicely. He’s going to be a far better horse. The turf has good footing. It looks to be pretty tight to the first bend so that’s why we went to the front today and it looks liked it worked, so we’ll keep trying it.” 

Rest of jockey quotes:

Pierre-Charles Boudot, Intellogent, 4th: “He ran well. I had a good race on the rail. He quickened well, but we couldn’t get to the front. The track is perfect, very nice ground.”

Billy Lee, Trais Fluors, 7th: “The trip might have just stretched him, he just got a bit tired at the end, but it wasn’t a bad run.”

Edgar Yanguez, Imagen de Roma, 8th: “I had a good race. Everything was going well, but he weakened in the final 400 metres. The track is very nice.”