Saudi Cup: All eyes on Riyadh as the world’s most valuable horse race debuts

Saudi Cup: All eyes on Riyadh as the world’s most valuable horse race debuts
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Updated 29 February 2020

Saudi Cup: All eyes on Riyadh as the world’s most valuable horse race debuts

Saudi Cup: All eyes on Riyadh as the world’s most valuable horse race debuts
  • As Saudi Arabia embarks on a new sporting era, a stellar line-up chases a record $29.2 million in prize money — and a place in history

RIYADH: When the gates of King Abdul Aziz Racetrack open at noon on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, it will usher in a new era for sports and entertainment in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable horse race is finally here — and not for the first time in recent years the eyes of the sporting world will turn to the Kingdom.

The numbers tell their own story: Eight races, a total purse of $29.2 million.

Prize money for the main event and final race of the day, the Saudi Cup, will be a record-breaking $20 million, with the winner taking home $10 million and the rest of the field sharing $6.5 million.

The line-up features a formidable American presence, including the highly rated Maximum Security and the Bob Baffert-trained duo of McKinzie and Mucho Gusto, but there will be significant regional interest as well.

Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, owner of the Juddmonte Farms breeding operation, will watch his own horse, Tacitus, take on the strong field in the Saudi Cup. “This is like the icing on the cake to be able to be here and participate in this race,” said trainer Bill Mott of Tacitus.

“It’s exciting. The great connections I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to be involved with at Juddmonte wanted to participate in (the Saudi Cup) and they’re excited as well.”

The Saudi Cup will also feature Godolphin’s six-year-old Benbatl, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who will also have pupil Final Song running earlier in the Samba Saudi Derby. A win for Benbatl, son of the famous Dubawi, will raise his career earnings to more than $15.7 million.

“It would mean a lot for us to win,” bin Suroor said. “It is the first-ever Saudi Cup and the first big international race in Saudi Arabia. It is a very important race and it will be important for us to see him run well and win. He has been a very good Group 1 horse for us and very versatile. I’m very happy with him and I think he will have a good run.”

In the run-up to the headline event, seven other races, with combined prize money of $9.2 million, will take place in front of the magnificent 5,000- seat main grandstand. VIPs and members of the public arriving at the Golden Entrance will have plenty of time to acquaint themselves with the different facilities and services of the track, which include the Saudi Cup Pavilion, the Red Sea Pavilion, the Main and Saudi Cup Grandstands, the food court and picnic area, a tech zone and a children’s play area.

The first race of the day, the 2,100-meter Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup, will be run on turf at 4 p.m. local time. It will be followed by the stc 1351 Cup (1,351 meters), also on turf, at 4:35 p.m.

Meanwhile, Freddy Head, who has ridden and trained major winners all over the world, is hoping to add the inaugural running of the $2.5 million Longines Turf Handicap (5:10 p.m.) to his list of triumphs when he rides six-year-old Call The Wind.

“He is a very consistent horse,” said the trainer. “Last year was a bit frustrating, though. He was unlucky a couple of times and had to carry a lot of weight.

In France, when you win a Group 1 race, you have to carry a lot of weight.”

Head said:“I think it is a worldwide thing to have these big races. It changes the way we train and plan the racing career of a horse. I remember coming here many years ago to ride. It’s nice to come back with a horse and run in a big race. Hopefully, he runs well here and then he will go back to Dubai.”

At 5:45 p.m. the Obaiya Arabian Classic, for purebred Arabian horses, will run over 2,000 meters on the dirt track before a 45-minute break.

Visitors will have the chance to observe the Maghreb prayers at 5:56 p.m. before returning in time for the fifth race of the day, the Jockey Club Local Handicap at 6:30 p.m.

This will be followed at 7:10 p.m. by the 1,600-meter Samba Saudi Derby, before the Isha prayer at 7:26 p.m.

No doubt the excitement will have built to fever pitch by the time of the penultimate race, the Saudia Sprint.

Gladiator King, Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al-Nuaimi’s Dubai-based runner, will put his unbeaten 2020 record on the line in the 1,200-meter event — the same distance at which he won both his starts this year in Meydan’s Dubawi and Al-Shindagha Sprint.

The showpiece event of the day, the Saudi Cup, will be run on dirt over one lap of the 1,800-meter King Abdul Aziz Racetrack.

The one-meter-high Saudi Cup trophy and a cheque for $10 million awaits the winner. Along with a place in history.

Decoder

Saudi Cup

Billed as the richest on the planet with a prize fund of $20 million, its inaugural run is on Feb. 29 at the King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in Riyadh. The race, over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) on the dirt track, will have a maximum field of 14 starters.


Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change
Updated 19 January 2021

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change
  • ‘People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no’
  • ‘They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements’

SYDNEY: Australian authorities said mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving for the Australian Open tennis tournament was essential to stop COVID-19, as the country recorded another day with no new locally acquired cases on Tuesday.
Some of the world’s top tennis players including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic have questioned the country’s enforced 14-day hotel quarantine, suggesting they should be allowed to complete the process in accommodation with tennis courts before the tournament which starts in Victoria state on Feb. 8.
But Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he would not make changes.
“People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no,” Andrews told reporters in a televised news conference.
“They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements.”
More than 70 players and their entourage are confined to their hotel rooms after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests for the coronavirus. Victoria recorded four new cases in hotel quarantine on Tuesday, but these are not counted as community transmissions.
Andrews came under substantial pressure in 2020 after putting the country’s second-most populous state into a months-long lockdown to fight a second wave of infections of the new coronavirus.
In neighboring New South Wales state, Hollywood actor Matt Damon was granted an exemption from hotel quarantine after arriving to film a “Thor” sequel in Sydney.
Damon flew in on a private jet, will stay in a rented house under security and pay for hospital-grade cleaning for his 14-day quarantine, a doctor involved in his quarantine was quoted saying in local media.
As Australia’s hard-line border controls keep daily numbers of new coronavirus cases at zero or low single digits, tourism operators have called for additional subsidies after health authorities suggested the country would not fully reopen its borders in 2021.
If the industry did not receive an extension of federal wage subsidies that are due to end in March, “we’ll be lucky to have a tourism industry in 12 or 18 months’ time,” Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the country would be unlikely to fully reopen its border soon, even though it hopes to start a vaccination program next month.
“There will be a process through 2021 of returning to some sort of normal,” Kelly told reporters.
“Unfortunately, international borders changes will be one of the last things to change, rather than the first.”