RIYADH: Local horses will compete in The Founder’s Cup this weekend, with the showcase King Abdulaziz Cup on Saturday, March 11 splitting a total prize of $2.66 million over two races.
Dubbed the crown of the championships, The Founder’s Cup is locally classified as Grade One and will be held at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Janadriyah, north of Riyadh, in conjunction with the first celebration of Saudi Arabia’s Flag Day.
The King Abdulaziz Cup – named after the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – is one of the most valuable prizes of the Riyadh racing season.
Four-year-old Arabian horses are to participate in the first round, while the second is dedicated to three-year-old thoroughbreds. Both races are open grades and cover 1,600 meters on a dirt track.
Organized by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, The Founder’s Cup includes a total of 22 races over Friday and Saturday, the most prominent being the two main rounds of The King Abdulaziz Cup on Saturday evening.
Alongside the races, the JCSA will host a variety of cultural and entertainment activities, offering an exciting day out for families as well as horseracing enthusiasts. Attractions will include a folklore dance performance by the Shabah Bisha ensemble and other events commemorating Flag Day.
A quarter-century of The Founder’s Cup
Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Equestrian Authority and the JCSA, said: “This occasion honors the memory of King Abdulaziz, the knight closely associated with horses.”
He pointed out that almost a quarter of a century had passed since the establishment of the Founder’s Cup in 1999, when the late King Abdullah, former JCSA chairman, launched a new equine championship in the name of the Kingdom’s founder King Abdulaziz.
“This renewal of The Founder’s Cup coincides with the celebration of our Flag Day, as decided by King Salman. The Jockey Club will play a prominent role in reviving this cherished national occasion linked to the history of our dear Kingdom and raising the national flag high on a joyful day,” Prince Bandar added.
A showcase of local horse quality
The prince described The Founder’s Cup as “the crown of championships” and the most important event in the Riyadh racing season, as it reflected the quality of both Arabian and thoroughbred horse production in the Kingdom. The number of horses produced locally has reached at least 3,000 per year.
“The renaissance of horse riding in general and specifically of horse racing in the Kingdom would not have been possible without the will of God and the unlimited support of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he said.
Prince Bandar noted that this support had a positive impact on the spread of horse racing in Saudi Arabia, while helping to meet the expectations of both participants and followers.
Systems and races development
Equestrian Authority Secretary-General Marwan Al-Olayan said: “The Founder’s Cup reflects the scale of development of local horse production, the strength of the races, and the quality of participating horses.
“As Prince Bandar has described it, The Founder’s Cup is indeed the crown of the championships.”
Al-Olayan noted that the JCSA was ready and primed for the big event.
“We are doing our best to introduce a successful championship as our goal in the Jockey Club is no longer just to hold the event but rather to nurture it so that we can repeat the success of last year.
“Our goal is the development of everything related to the Equestrian Authority in addition to its racing activities. We also aim to highlight the global leadership we have achieved in previous races,” he added.
JCSA chief executive officer, Ziad Almogren, said: “In light of the tireless work of my colleagues at the Jockey Club, we are optimistic that the current renewal of The King Abdulaziz Cup will be honored on an annual basis, in a way that satisfies the aspirations of local and foreign horse lovers.”