The Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh and the race, which attracts American and European champions alike, is well on its way to becoming a firm fixture not only in Saudi Arabia, where horses continue to play a significant role in preserving its history, but across the globe as racing enthusiasts revel in this new challenge of competing at the highest level, says a senior official.
Indeed, within only two years, The Saudi Cup has already been elevated to Group 1 status and Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: "I think it was the best news I got all year when The Saudi Cup became a Group 1 race. I am very appreciative of the people at the IFHA [International Federation of Horseracing Authorities] and the Pattern Committee who really support us here."
The $20m Saudi Cup, being held on Satuday (Feb 26), is a global Group 1 flat race held over 1800m and is the richest race in the world.
Won in 2021 by HRH Prince Abdul Rahman Al Faisal’s global superstar, Mishriff, now one of the most famous horses in the world, The Saudi Cup is beamed into more than 350 million homes worldwide.
"We are strongly committed to creating the best racing environment, the best horse welfare environment and to improve the level of the races and take them as far as we can. And I think they recognised how sincere we are, the effort we are putting into it, and they reacted accordingly.
"It is such an exciting event. I already knew after the first Saudi Cup that we had a winning formula here. It was well received by horse connections around the world and we started on the right foot. Obviously, we had to deal with Covid last year and it was a challenge for all of us to put this event together, but it did happen and oddly enough, domestically it really took off last year. It is doing a lot of things for horse racing and is an event that is here to stay.
"In fact, the most important thing for me is how it affects racing overall here, throughout the year. I’m glad to say it had an amazing effect on the quality of horses. It is much improved as expectations are much higher. Now I have owners saying, 'When can we have turf racing all year round?' We want more turf races," he said.
The Government is very eager for this event to reach the highest possible level. Every year has been a learning experience and when you stop learning you should leave, because we learn every year and we try not to make the same mistakes again and again, said Prince Bandar.
"I believe we are creating something very special here and I see this as one of the main fixtures in the racing calendar. I am really happy how American, European and Japanese owners and trainers have taken to this race and I think the sky is the limit. I think we can do a lot more here, it’s just a matter of getting better established and for the race to become more mainstream here in Saudi Arabia.
"One of the highlights is to welcome people from all over the world to Saudi Arabia so that they can see what we have here and participate and join us in this really special event. I have been speaking to many horse connections who have told me that is has been a real eye-opener and that they are very happy to be here, that it is a positive experience. It gives us great pleasure to host them here and we look forward to hosting thousands and thousands more in the future for this amazing spectacle," he said.
Source - TradeArabia News Service