'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)
Updated 07 March 2018
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'We want the best horses on the planet to race here,' says Saudi Arabia horse racing chief

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.


Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Updated 22 June 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.