Monday 5 June 2023

Saudi Cup Festival

The Saudi Cup Festival is a recent addition to the global racing calendar, having been inaugurated in 2020. Under the auspices of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, the two-day festival centres around the Saudi Cup, run over 1,800 metres, or approximately nine furlongs, on dirt at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in February. The Saudi Cup was established with the intention of raising awareness of horse racing among the Saudi population and promoting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia internationally. It is, in fact, the most valuable horse race in the world, with a total purse of $20 million.

Indeed, the Saudi Cup is the highlight of an eight-race card, featuring top class races on dirt, and on turf, worth a total of $30.5 million in prize money. The card, as a whole, attracted 22 Group 1, or Grade 1, winners in 2020 and 31 such winners in 2021. The preceding Friday features a curtain-raising 'International Jockeys Challenge', contested over four races, each worth $400,000, on the dirt course , plus the Saudi International Handicap, worth $500,000 and open to horses trained in developing racing countries. Irish jockey Shane Foley, who won the International Jockeys' Challenge in 2021, said, 'I really enjoy riding abroad and think it’s massively important. The racing in Saudi Arabia is a big and growing operation as far as owners are concerned, and all it takes is to kick on with one there and you could bring an owner back to Ireland for your stable.'. In 2022, the race was won by outsider Emblem Road, and Panthalassa in 2023 - with the winner claiming a cool $10 million.