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


Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne close to Manchester City return, says Pep Guardiola

Updated 14 December 2018
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Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne close to Manchester City return, says Pep Guardiola

MANCHESTER: Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are both on the verge of a return to action for Manchester City as a busy December program gathers pace, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
Aguero, City’s leading scorer, has missed their past four matches with a groin problem but has been able to train without discomfort and could face Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Belgium midfielder De Bruyne suffered ligament damage to his right knee in August and although he returned in October, he then injured his left knee during the League Cup win over Fulham on November 1.
He too has resumed full training and Guardiola will assess both players in the hope that his lengthy casualty list might be about to ease.
The manager, though, is optimistic on 30-year-old Aguero, who has 12 goals in all competitions this season.
“He did the last two training sessions, including on Thursday and he has no pain in his injury so we’ll decide,” he said.
“Kevin is in the same situation as Sergio. Yesterday he trained with no pain, we will see.”
The win over Hoffenheim enabled City to get back on track after the disappointment of seeing their 15-match unbeaten start to the Premier League season end in a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea last Saturday.
“Last season, when we dropped points, we were able to respond with another big run,” he said.