RIYADH: Leading international horses and jockeys have begun flocking to Riyadh for the $35.35 million fourth edition of the Saudi Cup set to take place at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Feb. 24-25.
Saudi-owned horses will be looking for a third straight win in the world’s richest horse race following Mishriff’s win 2021 and Emblem Road’s triumph last year.
In the first-ever run of the Saudi Cup in Feb. 2020, US colt Maximum Security crossed the line in first place, though the final result of that contest remains unclear due to possible cases of fraud connected with Maximum Security in previous US competitions.
The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA), organizers of The Saudi Cup, suspended the 2020 edition prize as the investigation continues. The title may yet go to the runner-up, filly Midnight Bisou.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed an unexpected challenge to both the JCSA and The Saudi Cup, with restrictions on social interaction and international travel. The 2020 Saudi Cup did successfully go ahead, but with precautionary measures ensuring the safety of both people and horses.
The disruptions had a silver lining as the JCSA is now leading the way toward an integrated approach to health and safety in horse racing across the Gulf region.
Saudi Arabia’s first success came when local-bred Mishriff, owned by Prince Abdulrahman bin Abdullah Faisal and trained by Englishman John Gosden OBE, claimed the 2021 Saudi Cup.
Another Saudi star, Emblem Road, owned by Prince Saud Bin Salman Abdulaziz, triumphed in the 2022 edition, keeping the prize in the Kingdom for the second consecutive year.
The Saudi Cup trophy could now remain in the Kingdom for the third year in a row with defending champion Emblem Road and stablemate Scotland Yard — winner of the Custodian Of The Two Holy Mosques Cup (held earlier this year) — among the favorites for the fourth edition of the race.
The Kingdom is witnessing a rapid expansion of horse racing with major investment in the JCSA’s racing facilities in both Taif (the JCSA’s summer venue) and Riyadh (host of the winter season), improvement of equine healthcare and streamlining of racing rules and regulations throughout the region.
While The Saudi Cup is the annual highlight, the JCSA has a mission to broaden the appeal of horse racing from an elite activity to a fun day out for all the family — with a host of side features including fashion shows, diverse cuisine and play areas for children.
“This is a hugely exciting time to be part of the JCSA and to see the progress that Saudi Arabia is making as a racing jurisdiction, both globally and on the domestic front,” said JCSA Chairman Prince Bandar bin Khaled Al-Faisal.
“We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more, or experiencing the thrill of the action, to come and visit us during our race meetings, ask questions and get involved.”