King Abdulaziz Horse Championship raises the bar in the richest race stakes
King Abdulaziz Horse Championship raises the bar in the richest race stakes
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
Klopp tells Liverpool: ‘We can make history’
- Blessed with an attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, a forward line to rival any in Europe, the Reds have played with a devil-may-care attitude.
- Jordan Henderson: “They (the fans) have played a huge part in us getting this far in the competition. Hopefully, they can create an atmosphere similar to Anfield because it has made a big difference.”
LONDON: Positivity and passion carried Liverpool to today’s Champions League final, and that is what will give them victory against Real Madrid in Kiev. That is the message Reds boss Jurgen Klopp delivered to his players ahead of the showdown with the Spanish giants.
Klopp and Co. head into the clash as marginal underdogs, with Real aiming for their third Champions League crown in as many years. But with nobody backing Liverpool to make the final when the competition started nine months ago, the tag is is not something that has bothered them so far.
Blessed with an attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, a forward line to rival any in Europe, the Reds have played with a devil-may-care attitude, and Klopp wants his side to forget about the occasion and attack the match as they have done every other Champions League tie.
“We are really fine in our position, with our tools. We don’t want to think about what other clubs have,” the Liverpool boss said.
“We did it our way, and we want to do it our way again — and we will see what it leads to.
“Nine months ago we were already a good football team. Maybe a few of us dreamt of being in the final, but only because of the performances we put in in different games. That created a special spirit. That’s our biggest strength, for sure.”
Jordan Henderson — Klopp’s main man on the pitch, the engine of the team and the man who makes the team tick — while acknowledging the Reds are up against a formidable side in Real, preached the same positive message as his boss.
“We are prepared for anything and everything. Real are a fantastic team, but we can hurt Madrid if we perform to the levels we are capable of reaching,” the Liverpool captain said.
“Anything can happen in a Champions League final. It’s about us creating history. We’ve done well to get to this point, but we want to go one step forward.”
If Champions League trophies were won on positive thinking alone, Liverpool are certainties to beat Real Madrid. Both Klopp and Henderson looked quietly confident and relaxed ahead of the biggest match of their lives. Positivity has propelled them to the showdown in Kiev, and there is no desire to change now.
The passion and free-scoring spirit that has characterized the Reds’ march to the final has been matched in the stands. Anfield has been a daunting place for opposition teams, with the 3-0 win over Manchester City in the quarterfinals notable for its intense, hostile atmosphere. And Henderson has called on the Liverpool fans to recreate the passion of home and intimidate Real.
“As we have said before, the fans are a massive part of the club,” he said. “They have played a huge part in us getting this far in the competition. Hopefully, they can create an atmosphere similar to Anfield because it has made a big difference.”
Standing in the way of a sixth European Cup for Liverpool is Real, who again have saved their best performances for Europe while faltering at home.
Attempting to become the first side since 1976 to win three on the bounce, Zinedine Zidane’s side head into the final with a wealth of experience. Cristiano Ronaldo is the side’s spearhead, with Gareth Bale coming into form at just the right time and likely to start tonight.
Klopp is well aware of the defending champions’ combination of excellence and experience, but remains undaunted.
“We have unbelievable quality on our bench, but nobody has the same quality as Madrid,” the German said. “Whoever they have on the bench, they are really quality players.
“Experience is very important. A second before the game, Real will be more confident than we are, but it doesn’t matter because the game isn’t decided in that second. Real are really strong, but they’ve never played us.”
There seems to be an inner belief within the Liverpool side that is both seductive and refreshing. And that, as much as anything else, is why Klopp is a confident man.
“This club has it in its DNA to win big things. We are here because we are Liverpool,” he said.