RIYADH: Prize money for the 2023-24 horse racing season in Riyadh, which begins on Oct. 16 and continues until Mar. 16, will increase by more than 7 percent compared with last season, and 56 additional races will be run at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, where the highlight remains the Saudi Cup in February.
The total prize money for the season, excluding the Saudi Cup meeting, will rise by $1.5 million to a total of $21.9 million, the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia said. The total number of races will increase to 700 across 59 meetings, all of which will comprise 12 races compared with the previous 11: 10 for Thoroughbreds and two for purebred Arabians.
This represents a significant increase in the number of races for purebred Arabians over the course of the season, the jockey club added, with 66 races added to the calendar. They include a new cup race, the $80,000 Abdulaziz bin Musa’id bin Jalooey Cup, which will be run for the first time on Feb. 10, 2024.
Five purebred Arabian contests have been introduced to the pattern, the highest level of races, this season and will be run as listed contests. The JCSA Cup will take place on Nov. 25, a week after a new, yet to be named listed race on Nov. 18. In the new year, the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Sword on Jan. 13, the Sprint Championship on March 8, and the King Abdulaziz Racecourse Championship on March 9 will be run as purebred Arabian listed events.
Three other new cup races for Thoroughbreds have been added to the calendar. The Imam Mohammed bin Saud Cup, worth $240,000, is a notable addition to the King’s Cup race day on Jan. 13, and the others are the $80,000 Prince Saad bin Abdulrahman bin Faisal Cup on Jan. 19 and the $80,000 Prince Fahad bin Jalawi Cup on Feb. 10.
A further development this season is the reduction of the distance in the listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup to 1,800 meters, the same trip as the $20 million Saudi Cup, to better reflect its status as a key qualifier for that contest.
The dates for the Saudi Cup meeting have been confirmed as Feb. 23 and 24. It will once again carry an enormous prize fund of $35.4m, with the centerpiece $20 million Saudi Cup race itself maintaining its position as the most valuable in the world.
For the first time this season, the Saudi Cup meeting will feature three international G1 races, after the Al-Mneefah Cup for purebred Arabians, which takes place the day before the Saudi Cup, was promoted to G1 status this season.
Prince Abdullah bin Khaled, chairperson of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia’s Technical Committee, said: “The announcement of the 2023-24 Riyadh program marks the JCSA’s continued commitment to the growth of racing in the Kingdom.
“The Riyadh program, held throughout the autumn, winter and spring at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, builds on the success of the Ta’if summer season and leads the Saudi Arabian racing community into the Saudi Cup weekend and beyond, to the conclusion of the season in March and then potentially an international campaign for the top performers.
“This season the listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup will be run as an 1,800-meter race for the first time, making it a true prep for the Saudi Cup, which is held over the same course and distance.
“In addition we have added to our purebred Arabian program, with almost double the amount of races on offer. Every race night will now feature 10 Thoroughbred races and two purebred Arabian contests, underlining our continued commitment to developing this code of racing both in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”