RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- The world has a new richest horse race, with the announcement of the creation of the $20 million Saudi Cup, at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in Riyadh in 2020. Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, announced details of the contest at a launch event in Saratoga, New York. With a free entry fee, the race will be run on dirt over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) and will have a maximum field of 14 starters. There will be a prize of $10 million for the winning horse and horses down to 10th place will share another $10 million between them. “The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is, without doubt, the most significant event in the history of horse racing in Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and also our ambition to become a leading player on horse racing’s world stage,” said Prince Bandar. “We look forward to welcoming international horsemen and women, the media, racing enthusiasts and the public to Riyadh in 2020.” The Saudi Cup will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Fla., and four weeks prior to the Dubai World Cup. The top horses in training have the opportunity to compete in all three of the most valuable dirt races in the world: the Pegasus World Cup, with a peak value of $16 million in 2018, and the Dubai World Cup with a current worth of $12 million. In terms of turf races, the richest is in Australia (the Everest) and is worth $9.8 million. While in Japan, the mark is $6 million for the Japan Cup. Europe’s most lucrative event, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, has a prize fund of $5.6 million. Prince Bandar has an emotional connection to horses. Less than a century ago, his great grandfather King Abdul Aziz, a renowned rider and the founding father of modern Saudi Arabia, led his army into battle on horseback, earning himself the title “The Last Horseman.” In 1932, King Abdul Aziz unified the kingdoms of Nejd and Hijaz, creating the sovereign state of Saudi Arabia. Horse racing soon became an important cultural event in the young nation. Its status was enhanced in 2003 with the opening of the King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, with a 2,000-meter circumference, a three-furlong (600-meter) chute and a state-of-the-art dirt racing surface. Many of the world’s leading jockeys have ridden regularly at the racetrack, and have been impressed with its facilities. “I’ve been going to King Abdul Aziz Racetrack ever since it opened … Of all the dirt tracks I’ve ridden, it’s the one I like best as you can win from the front and you can win from behind — it’s a fair track,” said Europe’s jockey of the moment, Frankie Dettori. “The other thing I like is that the kickback is so much less than on other dirt tracks. I don’t know why, but the sand seems finer and doesn’t stick. You only need a couple of pairs of goggles, where on other tracks you need four or five. It’s a kinder track that I can see turf horses handling.” US jockey Edgar Prado said, “In my experience, all the time I rode at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, I’ve found it good and safe with a nice stretch run. Horses handle it very well.” France’s four-time champion jockey Olivier Peslier said, “King Abdul Aziz Racetrack is one of the best dirt tracks in the world — a wonderful track. And I know that the American jockeys like it very much because it really suits the American horses. It has a long straight, and there isn’t much kickback.” The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will arrange and fund the shipment of all invited horses, including the cost of flights and hotel accommodation of the horses’ connections. In addition to the Saudi Cup, there will be further international races on the undercard ahead of the showcase race.
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