RIYADH — In the countdown to the fourth installment of The Saudi Cup — with its $30 million-plus purse, the world’s most valuable — leading international horses and jockeys have begun flocking to Riyadh, where the headline races are scheduled to be held on Feb. 24 and 25 at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Janadriyah, just north of the capital.
Suspension of 2020 prize
The Saudi Cup race was first held in February 2020, with American colt Maximum Security being the first contender to cross the finish line. However, the final result of that contest remains unclear to this day, 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, have enhanced their global reputation and integrity with the suspension of the 2020 edition prize, as the investigation continues. The title may yet go to 2020 runner-up, filly Midnight Bisou.
The coronavirus pandemic posed an unexpected challenge to both the JCSA and The Saudi Cup, with its 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.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the JCSA is now leading the way towards an integrated approach to health and safety in horseracing across the Gulf region.
KSA triumphs in 2021 and 2022
Saudi Arabia was rewarded for these good efforts when local-bred Mishriff, owned by Prince Abdulrahman Bin Abdullah Faisal and trained by Englishman John Gosden OBE, claimed the 2021 Saudi Cup, retaining it within the Kingdom for the first time.
Another Saudi star, Emblem Road, owned by Prince Saud Bin Salman Abdulaziz, triumphed in the 2022 edition of The Saudi Cup, keeping the prize in the Kingdom for the second consecutive year.
The Saudi Cup trophy is now set to remain in the Kingdom for the third year in a row as defending champion Emblem Road and stablemate Scotland Yard, winner of Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Cup (held earlier this year), will both be running in the upcoming race.
Irish Mishriff brings glory to the Kingdom
The Irish-bred bay colt Mishriff, born in 2017, was from the first generation of foals sired by the legendary colt Make Believe and filly Dam Contradict. Mishriff was also a product of the Juddmonte breeding operation, founded by the late Prince Abdulrahman Bin Abdullah Faisal, a towering figure in the history of horseracing.
Mishriff has the rare ability to dominate on both dirt and turf tracks, with seven high-profile wins to his name including the 2020 French Derby, the 2021 Saudi Cup 2021, the 2021 Dubai-based Sheema Classic — all contributing to his becoming one of the most prized horse in history with a valuation of $14 million.
Prince Abdulrahman Bin Abdullah Faisal named the outstanding colt after his good friend and late trainer, Mishrif Bin Motlaq Bin Shanaan – himself an equine legend with a 70-year career in horseracing.
A golden age for KSA horse racing
The Kingdom is currently witnessing a rapid expansion of horseracing 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 regions.
While the Saudi Cup is the annual highlight, the JCSA has a mission to broaden the appeal of horseracing 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 kids.
“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.” begingroup SG