Saudi Arabia to stage world’s richest race in 2020

Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, announced that the Kingdom will stage the world’s richest horse race in 2020. (Supplied photo)
Updated 08 August 2019

Saudi Arabia to stage world’s richest race in 2020

  • The prize for the winning horse will be $10m, with horses down to 10th place sharing another $10m between them

JEDDAH: The world has a new richest race, with the announcement of the creation of the $20 million Saudi Cup, to be run at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29, 2020.

Details of the contest were announced by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, at a launch event in Saratoga, New York, on Wednesday.

The race will be run on over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) on dirt, and will have a maximum field of 14 starters. The race will be free to enter and to participate in.

BACKGROUND

  • The Saudi Cup will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida, and four weeks prior to the Dubai World Cup. 
  • The Pegasus World Cup had a peak value of $16 million in 2018, while the Dubai World Cup is currently worth $12 million. 

The prize for the winning horse will be $10 million, with horses down to 10th place sharing another $10 million between them.

“The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horseracing in Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and also our ambition to become a leading player on horseracing’s world stage,” said Prince Bandar.

“We look forward to welcoming international horsemen and women, the media, racing enthusiasts and the public to Riyadh in 2020.” The Saudi Cup will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida, and four weeks prior to the Dubai World Cup. 

This means that the top horses in training have the opportunity to compete in all three of the most valuable dirt races in the world.

The Pegasus World Cup had a peak value of $16 million in 2018, while the Dubai World Cup is currently worth $12 million. 

In terms of turf races, the richest is in Australia (the Everest) and is worth $9.8 million. In Japan, the mark is $6 million for the Japan Cup. 

Europe’s most lucrative event, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, has a prize fund of $5.6 million.




Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, in Saratoga. (Supplied photo)

Prince Bandar’s connection to horses is an emotional one. Less than a century ago, his great grandfather King Abdul Aziz, a renowned rider and the founding father of modern Saudi Arabia, led his army into battle on horseback, earning himself the title “The Last Horseman.”

In 1932, King Abdul Aziz unified the kingdoms of Nejd and Hijaz, creating the sovereign state of Saudi Arabia. Horseracing soon became an important cultural event in the young nation. 

Its status was enhanced in 2003 with the opening of King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, with a 2,000-meter circumference, a three-furlong (600-meter) chute and a state-of-the-art dirt racing surface.

Many of the world’s leading jockeys have ridden regularly at the racetrack over the past few years, and have been impressed with its facilities.

“I’ve been going to King Abdul Aziz Racetrack ever since it opened … Of all the dirt tracks I’ve ridden, it’s the one I like best as you can win from the front and you can win from behind — it’s a fair track,” said Europe’s jockey of the moment, Frankie Dettori.




The King Abdullah Racetrack in Riyadh, the venue for the $20 million Saudi Cup, which will be the world's richest horse race. (Supplied photo)

“The other thing I like is that the kickback is so much less than on other dirt tracks. I don’t know why, but the sand seems finer and doesn’t stick. You only need a couple of pairs of goggles, where on other tracks you need four or five. It’s a kinder track that I can see turf horses handling.”

US jockey Edgar Prado said: “In my experience, all the time I rode at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, I’ve found it good and safe with a nice stretch run. Horses handle it very well.”

France’s four-time champion jockey Olivier Peslier said: “King Abdul Aziz Racetrack is one of the best dirt tracks in the world — a wonderful track. And I know that the American jockeys like it very much because it really suits the American horses. It has a long straight, and there isn’t much kickback.”

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will arrange and fund the shipment of all invited horses. It will also arrange and pay for the flights and hotel accommodation of the horses’ connections.

In addition to the Saudi Cup, there will be further international races on the undercard ahead of the showcase race. 

Further details of these supporting races and the full race program will be announced at a later date.


Kobe Bryant’s body identified among helicopter crash victims

Updated 29 January 2020

Kobe Bryant’s body identified among helicopter crash victims

  • The body was identified using fingerprints
  • Officials used drones to replicate the helicopter’s final flight path

LOS ANGELES, US: Medical examiners identified the body of NBA legend Kobe Bryant after recovering the remains of all nine people who died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, officials said Tuesday.
Bryant’s body was officially identified along with three others using fingerprints, two days after their helicopter crashed into a rugged hillside northwest of the city.
Meanwhile federal investigators finished their inspection of the crash site, handing it over to local authorities.
“We are done on the site,” said Jennifer Homendy, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Images showed investigators earlier flying drones over the accident site and manually combing through twisted, charred wreckage of the helicopter, which was scattered over a wide area of 180 meters.
Officials also used drones to replicate the helicopter’s final, fateful flight path, Homendy said.
Earlier Tuesday, the coroner’s office confirmed all nine bodies have been retrieved from the site and “transported to the department’s forensic science center” for examination.
The bodies of pilot Ara Zobayan, baseball coach John Altobelli and Sarah Chester have also been identified.
The remaining five — including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna — have not yet been officially identified.
The death of Bryant — a five-time NBA champion for the LA Lakers and double Olympic gold medalist — has shocked the world, with tributes continuing to pour in Tuesday.
Bryant, 41, was traveling with daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when the Sikorsky S-76 slammed into a hillside in thick fog in Calabasas, northwest of LA.
The helicopter was headed to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where his daughter was set to play.
Homendy described the accident as a “high energy impact crash,” having earlier labelled the crash scene as “pretty devastating.”
Homendy said the helicopter did not have a “terrain awareness and warning system” installed. The NTSB in 2004 had recommended to federal aviation authorities that the system be required on all helicopters with six or more passenger seats, but the recommendation was not adopted, she added.
Investigators have now airlifted the helicopter’s wreckage onto trucks, which then transported it to a secure location for further examination.
An iPad, cellphone and maintenance records were found among the wreckage, along with “everything we would expect would be on the aircraft,” said Homendy.
She told journalists that the probable cause for the accident may not be confirmed for 12-18 months, when a final report will be issued.
A preliminary, fact-based report is expected in 10 days.
The other passengers on the flight — who have not yet been officially identified — have been named as Altobelli’s wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, who played basketball at the same club as Gianna.
Christina Mauser, an assistant coach of the Mamba girls’ basketball team, was also killed along with Payton Chester, Sarah’s daughter.
Mourning fans Tuesday placed bouquets of flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the gated community in Newport Beach, south of Los Angeles, where the late NBA great lived.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said a tribute to Bryant would be included in next month’s Oscars ceremony telecast.
The star, who won an Academy Award in 2018 for animated short film “Dear Basketball,” had been honored with a moment’s silence at the Oscars nominees luncheon on Monday.
A petition for the NBA logo to be redesigned with Bryant’s likeness had reached two million signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
The NBA postponed Tuesday’s Lakers game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Basketball superstar LeBron James said he was “heartbroken and devastated” over Bryant’s death in an emotional Instagram post, while also vowing to continue his friend’s championship legacy with the Lakers.
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic donned a jersey bearing Bryant’s initials and shirt numbers at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.
With the crash site becoming a pilgrimage point for fans, police on horseback and all-terrain vehicles have been brought in to secure the area.