A leap year doesn’t come around every day, and neither does a $20 million (R300 million) horse race.
But next week, on 29 February, these two will combine to bring the world a racing spectacle like never seen before.
It’s the Saudi Cup, and Phumelela is in the process of negotiating with the broadcasting rights holders to broadcast this benchmark event here on Tellytrack.
Sandwiched perfectly between the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup, the Saudi Cup meeting will be held over two days, with the main race day on Saturday 29 February.
Announcing the first staging of the event, HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, the chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “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.”
While the race meeting carries total stakes of $29.2 million (R438 million) the main race carries the bulk of the pot, with the winning horse earning a cool $10 million (R150 million) and horses down to 10th place sharing another $10 million300- between them.
It will be run over 1800m on dirt.
In promoting this new equestrian challenge, Khalid Al Faisal said: “My great-grandfather – King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia – was the last military leader in the world to win his battles from the saddle, and my grandfather, who was in his twenties, rode alongside him. Then my father was a jockey, can you believe, from the age of nine until his late-teens!
“We’re putting on the Saudi Cup in the hope that people who love horses and racing around the world might come and take a closer look at our culture and our country: explore a place they’d never thought of visiting and perhaps see it anew.
“Over the years, we will be delighted if the Saudi Cup can attract some of the finest horses and become one of the more sought-after races to participate in and watch.”
Day one of the meeting, on Friday 28 February, will also see some of the best jockeys in the world compete in the Kingdom Day STC International Jockeys Challenge.
Featuring seven of the best male and seven of the best female riders in the world, the all-star line-up includes Japanese headline grabbers Yutaka Take and Nanako Fujita; Italian superstar, Frankie Dettori; French sensation, Mickaëlle Michel; three-time New Zealand Champion, Lisa Allpress; 11-time British Classic-winning rider, Ryan Moore; four-time Breeders’ Cup-winning Frenchman, Olivier Peslier, and, from America, the most successful Breeders’ Cup jockey of all time, Mike Smith.
Other contestants include the US Grade 1 winner, Sophie Doyle, plus the reigning British all-weather champion apprentice, Nicola Currie, and the Swiss-born but German-based Pattern-winning rider, Sibylle Vogt. Canadian legend Emma-Jayne Wilson, winner of over 1,500 races in North America, completes the line-up alongside two top Saudi Arabian-based jockeys — Adel Alfouraidi and a second local rider that will be decided later.
“Racing is a sport that routinely sees male and female riders compete on a level playing field and we are proud to continue this great tradition at King Abdulaziz Racecourse during Saudi Cup weekend,” said Khalid Al Faisal.