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'We want the best horses on the planet to race here,' says Saudi Arabia horse racing chief

Some of the best horses in the world are set to run on the dirt track at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh. (AFP)
LONDON: The director general and secretary of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Club has said he wants to establish the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh as a major venue for high-class international racing.
Last month the General Sports Authority announced that the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship would rival the world’s great races by eclipsing the $16 million Pegasus World Cup that is staged at Gulfstream Park in Florida, America in January.
A date for the contest has yet to be given, but when asked whether the proposed race would offer the world’s richest purse, Saleh bin Ali Al-Hammadi said: “That is what we hope, Inshallah.
“I don’t want to talk about it, I want people to see it. As a live event that takes place here. We want the best horses on this planet earth to come and participate on the soil of Saudi Arabia, which we call the ‘Cradle of Horses’.”
Al-Hammadi also said, in a video published on social media: “It’s not a secret when I say there is a huge plan to make this track an international track for international participation. The plan is to have the biggest racing and prize money.”
The race is designed to help Saudi Arabia burnish its credentials as a key player in world horseracing, and to try to share its historic and cultural legacy of equestrianism.
According to a recent report, there are 28,000 horses in the Kingdom and more than 3,000 Arabian horses were bred in 14 studs in 2016.
Last week it was announced that the Riyadh-based Equestrian Club has undergone a management reshuffle, with Al-Hammadi now holding the positions of director general and secretary.
Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al-Faisal has been appointed chairman, while Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal and Prince Abdullah Bin Khalid Bin Sultan are appointed members of the board, according to a royal decree.
The Equestrian Club, which was established in 1965, organizes races in Riyadh and Taif with the participation of Arabian horses.
The staging of the $17 million King Abdulaziz Horse Championship will top the lot, though, and continue the power struggle at the apex of world horse racing regarding prize money.
Dubai’s World Cup meeting has long been top dog with a purse of $10 million, but it was upstaged in 2017 when Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Arrogate won the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup.
Following Arrogate’s subsequent victory in the World Cup at Meydan Racecourse two months later Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, prime minister of the UAE the ruler of Dubai, said that he had hoped to make the race he inaugurated in 1996 once again the world’s biggest payday. An announcement has not been forthcoming ahead of the World Cup meeting on March 31.
A month later it was announced that prize money for the Pegasus World Cup would be increased to $16 million.