King Abdulaziz Horse Championship raises the bar in the richest race stakes

The King Abdulaziz Horse Championship is likely to be run on dirt. (AP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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King Abdulaziz Horse Championship raises the bar in the richest race stakes

LONDON: The detail might have been scant, but there was no hiding the ambition with which the new King Abdulaziz Horse Championship was announced late on Tuesday night.
What we do know is that the new international horse race will carry a purse of $17 million, which, if for a single race, will eclipse the $16 million Pegasus World Cup as the world’s most valuable race.
Last March Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid promised to stage the world’s most valuable contest again, and with Dubai’s Expo 2020 on the horizon, it is not out of the question that we will soon have the world’s first $20 million horse race.
The Pegasus World Cup looks set for a third renewal next January and The Everest is the world’s most lucrative turf sprint at $AU10 million ($7.86 million).
But, for now, the $17 million purse for the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship makes it the most lucrative on the circuit.
The aim of the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship, which, so far, does not have a distance, surface, home or date, is to attract the best talent from the racing powerbases of the United States, the UK and Japan.
The Saudi Arabian Government’s General Sports Authority outlined that the fixture would help share the Kingdom’s “historic and cultural legacy,” which has been the modus operandi of neighboring Middle Eastern countries during the past 30 years.
Dubai was the first Gulf state to understand the international marketing potential of sport, and thoroughbred horseracing in particular, when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, set up his Godolphin racing stable in 1992. Others have followed, with varying success, and it remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia can catch up. And quickly enough.
Saudi Arabia has a considerable international racing presence already, however. Prince Khalid Abdullah is Saudi Arabia’s most successful international racing figure, having owned such equine luminaries as Frankel, Enable, Arrogate and Dancing Brave. But the leading owner and highly successful breeder is in his 80s and, although son Prince Ahmed bin Khalid was at Ascot in July to witness Enable’s triumph in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the succession plans for the Juddmonte operation are not yet clear. 
There is also the issue of competition. The King Abdulaziz Horse Championship is likely to be staged in Riyadh and on dirt. It will therefore be a direct rival not only to the Dubai World Cup at the end of March, but Qatar’s Emir’s Sword Festival at the end of the month. 
The Dubai World Cup Carnival, which is currently in full swing at Meydan racecourse until the $30 million World Cup meeting itself on Mar. 31, attracts horses from around the world and is an established stopover of the international season. It was first run in 1996. 
This new initiative will, in all likelihood, have to break that up or in some way complement it. Alternatively organizers may look to squeeze the event  into the busy international season at the end of the year when the Breeders’ Cup and the Hong Kong International meeting in December takes center stage.
Saudi Arabia’s interest in international sport is growing, and at pace. The country is riding a wave of reform as it works toward Saudi Vision 2030, which intends to transform the country into a global investment powerhouse and strategic global hub.
Perhaps in 12 years time the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship vision may well have been realized, but there is a lot of work to be done in the meantime.


HORSE RACING'S RICHEST RACES

King Abdulaziz Horse Championship $17million

Pegasus World Cup $16 million

Dubai World Cup $10 million

The Everest $7.86 million

Breeders' Cup Classic $6 million


Rockets outlast Warriors 98-94, edge closer to NBA Finals

Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets goes up against Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 22 min 58 sec ago
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Rockets outlast Warriors 98-94, edge closer to NBA Finals

  • The Rockets head into Game 6 on Saturday night in Oakland one win away from knocking off the defending champions and advancing to the NBA Finals.
  • After Game 6 on Saturday, the Rockets would host Game 7 on Monday if necessary.

HOUSTON, Texas: Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 24 points and his steal on Golden State’s last possession secured a 98-94 victory Thursday night that gave the Houston Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Rockets head into Game 6 on Saturday night in Oakland one win away from knocking off the defending champions and advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 1994-95.
Chris Paul scored 20 points and James Harden struggled for his 19, but Paul had to leave the game in the final minute with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Kevin Durant scored 29 points for the Warriors, who lost in Game 5 of a playoff series for just the second time since 2015.
The Rockets won a second straight defensive struggle between the two potent offenses, leaving the Warriors a loss from missing the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.
“We had to rely on our defense once again,” Harden said. “Game 4, we weren’t making shots but defensively we were really good. Same thing tonight.”
Draymond Green made a 3-pointer with just over minute left to get Golden State within one. Harden, who was 0 for 11 on 3s, missed his last one with less than 30 seconds left, giving the Warriors the ball back.
Stephen Curry missed a floater and Trevor Ariza grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 10 seconds left. But he made just one of two free throws to give the Warriors another chance.
But Gordon came up with his steal when Green lost control in the lane and added two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to put it away.
Klay Thompson shook off a knee injury that had his status for this game in question to score 23 points and Curry added 22. A bruised left knee kept Andre Iguodala out for the second straight game, and Kevon Looney started in his place.
After losing Game 1 of the series, the Rockets made the best of home-court advantage this time, thrilling a sellout crowd that included Justin Timberlake, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt and rapper Travis Scott.
It’s Houston’s second straight win in the series after snapping Golden State’s NBA playoff-record, 16-game home winning streak with a 95-92 victory on Tuesday night.
Golden State led by one to start the fourth before Paul got going, scoring seven points to power a 10-5 run that gave the Rockets an 81-77 lead with about 9 1/2 minutes left.
Thompson made a 3-pointer after that and then officials reviewed Paul’s first basket of the quarter and ruled he got it off after the shot clock expired, leaving the Warriors ahead 80-79.
The Rockets were clinging to a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Durant fouled Gordon on a 3-point attempt, losing one of his shoes in the process. Gordon made all three free throws to start a 7-2 spurt that extended the lead to 88-82 midway through the quarter.
The Rockets honored the 10 people killed in last week’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, before the game, with the school’s choir singing the national anthem and team owner Tilman Fertitta wearing a “Santa Fe Strong” T-shirt, before Houston scored the game’s first six points in a first half where the team led by as many as 11.

TIP-INS
Warriors: Coach Steve Kerr was unsure Thursday if Iguodala would be able to return for Game 6. “He’s dying to play, but he’s not healthy enough,” Kerr said. “We’ll just continue to take it day to day..”.. Curry made four free throws to tie Rick Barry for most free throws made in the playoffs in franchise history with 378. ... Golden State had 18 turnovers.
Rockets: Clint Capela had 12 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double this postseason. ... Houston made 13 of 43 3-pointers, led by four from Gordon.

UP NEXT
After Game 6 on Saturday, the Rockets would host Game 7 on Monday if necessary.