RIYADH: Frankie Dettori will compete in the Saudi Cup International Jockeys Challenge (IJC) at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on February 24.
The Italian will make his 11th seasonal appearance in Saudi Arabia, where he has ridden six winners from 72 rides, on what promises to be his final year in the saddle.
Asked what it meant to be invited to ride in the IJC, which is held on the Friday of Saudi Cup weekend, Dettori said: “In my final year as a jockey I want to go to as many places as possible and being able to compete in the IJC at The Saudi Cup is a huge event that I’m delighted to be a part of.
“This will be one of my final chances to share a weighing room with some of the world’s greatest jockeys, and I look forward to seeing who else I’m going to come up against. Joao Moreira has been confirmed, as has last year’s winner Caitlin Jones, so the competition already looks pretty fierce!”
“I know both the dirt and the turf tracks well having ridden in Riyadh quite a lot over the years, and it’s a place I enjoy riding at as it’s very fair and the surfaces are always in great condition. It’s also a great warm-up event for the big Group races on the Saturday, and of course The Saudi Cup itself, which I’d love to win.”
Australian rider Caitlin Jones won last year’s IJC and has been invited back to defend her title.
Speaking about her experience of riding in and winning the IJC in 2022, Jones said: “It’s hard to believe it’s nearly been a year since I rode in the International Jockeys Challenge. It was extra special to ride alongside Glen Boss during his last hurrah and have him standing on the podium with me. That’s a memory I will never forget.
“I hadn’t had much experience on a dirt track, but it was a great surface to race on. You could travel wherever you were and if you were good enough you could win from anywhere. There wasn’t a lot of kickback, it’s an elite surface on every level. They’ve done a wonderful job with it.
“I couldn’t be happier to have been asked to come back and try to retain my title – it would be pretty cheeky if I managed it, wouldn’t it?! I’ll be going out there with every intention of taking it out a second time, but you need a lot of luck with the horses you get drawn. I can’t wait to be back competing in Saudi Arabia again.”
Four-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey, Joao Moreira, is another of the high-profile names to be confirmed to ride in the four-race challenge.
The Brazilian is back in his native land after leaving Hong Kong last year but is planning to ride more internationally in the coming months.
Moreira said: “I’m excited and looking forward to riding in the International Jockeys Challenge. This is a great opportunity for me to ride in a place I’ve never been before, and I wouldn’t miss a chance to ride at a different racecourse and to get that stamp on my CV.
“I’ve heard the infrastructure is good over there and I’ve no doubt that the event they are going to put on will be top-class. Whoever is there, I’m sure they are going to see some great riders doing their best and putting on a very good show.
“Frankie’s just a brilliant rider, he’s the best. Getting the chance to ride with him once again is fantastic.”
The second of the seven female riders to be confirmed is Canadian Chantal Sutherland, who has ridden over 1,200 winners, including three Grade 1s to date, and is set to take her first rides in Saudi Arabia.
Sutherland said: “It’s a huge opportunity which I’m super excited about. I’ve never been to Saudi but it’s always been on the bucket list as I love these jockey challenges. I’ve had a really good year in Florida so far and I can’t wait to head over.
“To ride against the likes of Frankie [Dettori] and Caitlin Jones is a real honor. I know Frankie well and have ridden against him plenty of times — he’s a lot of fun and the crowds always love him. Anyone of us could win it, but I’m going to give it my all – I’d love to come out on top. I was obviously very lucky to come second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a few years ago, but if I could win the IJC it would top that.
“Racing in Saudi is getting bigger and bigger and everyone I’ve spoken to has been really positive about it. The prize money is absolutely amazing, and I’m really excited to be part of it all.”
The International Jockeys Challenge features four handicap races, each run for $400,000, with a further $100,000 prize fund for the challenge itself.
The jockeys are made up of seven international female riders, five international men and two local men with the jockeys receiving 15 percent of prize money won in each of the four races.
All races will consist of 14 runners and five reserves, with all 14 jockeys riding in each race.
Two races will be staged on dirt and two on turf, with the distances ranging from 1200m to 2100m.