RIYADH: Many eyes were on the thoroughbred racehorses as the annual Saudi Cup meeting began in Riyadh on Friday — but by no means all eyes.
The world’s most valuable horse-racing event is a magnet for royalty, fashion models, designers and lovers of haute couture, and visitors to the King Abdulaziz Equestrian Square came to see and be seen.
This year there was a twist, with many racegoers in traditional Saudi dress. “We are proud to represent our culture and the Saudi Cup is the biggest in the world. We are proud of who we are and that we are able to share our culture and traditions with the world,” said Abu Turki, from Riyadh, who was dressed in a traditional Saudi “sayah,” a long, intricately embroidered robe.
Abu Turki told Arab News his choice was inspired by the late King Abdulaziz, who often wore similar clothing to equestrian events, and he was proud to share and celebrate the Kingdom’s culture and history with the world.
Racehorse owners Sophie Murrell Regalado from Spain and Marta Kaja Pisarczyk from Germany traveled from Dubai for their first Saudi Cup. “It is my first time in Saudi Arabia and I wanted to wear something modest, so I am wearing this long maroon dress and my blossoming floral hat for the day,” Murrell Regalado said.
Royalty was represented by the French author Princess Sophie-Audouin Mamikonian, heir to the ancient medieval throne of the kingdom of Armenia, who wore Valentino. “I am thrilled to be here today I am filled with passion and emotion,” she said.
Saudi designer Najd Alqabbaa wore a unique abaya from her personal line, with the colors and designs of the region.
Another designer, Nouf bin Seaidan, dressed several visitors, including Saudi model Rakan Al-Shrimy. “My outfit is inspired by Al-Ahsa, the pearls are from there and the embroidery is inspired by the architecture of that region,” bin Seaidan said.
“We have readily good architecture and couture, it’s our identity, and it’s really nice that we have an occasion for it to stand out.”
This weekend’s event is the third Saudi Cup meeting. With a total prize purse of more than $35 million, it is the world’s most valuable horse-racing event. The $20 million Saudi Cup race itself takes place on Saturday.