Author: Duane Fonseca

THE CHAIRMAN of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia has revealed he would like to sit down with racing authorities in the UAE to discuss plans to exponentially grow the region’s profile in global racing. HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal who was at the forefront in organising the first ever multi million Saudi Cup meeting at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh last week said it would be mutually beneficial if the UAE and Saudi were to align their calendars strategically. Prince Bandar had already praised the role played by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who wholeheartedly threw his weight behind the Saudi endeavour. Prince Bandar said he received tremendous support and guidance from the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“Sheikh Mohammed was one of the first people I went to and explained the idea after I received the direction from HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi Crown Prince, and he said you can come to me for anything you need,” Prince Bandar told Al Adiyat. “Sheikh Mohammed has been supporting us not just to make this happen, but to help give it the quality that was needed. We are happy with the horses he sent which participated in this first edition of the Saudi Cup.” The inaugural edition of the feature $20 million Saudi Cup was won by Maximum Security, who won last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified after being cited for interference.

Other prominent names that joined him in that starting field of 14 were Godolphin’s multiple Group One winner Benbatl, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Bob Baffert’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes winner Mucho Gusto and 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic runnerup McKinzie. Last year’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes and Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes winner Midnight Bisou, trained by Steve Asmussen, finished second, with legendary Irish conditioner Aidan O’Brien represented by his 2019 Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes winning mare Magic Wand. Godolphin also sent the Charlie Appleby-schooled 2018 Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter, who finished fifth in the Longines Turf Handicap over 3000m.

“This is an important addition to the big races here in this part of the world,” Prince Bandar said. “Bahrain had an international race a couple of months ago, while Dubai has a whole carnival season that’s been going on for 25 years which has really moved the sport here to a different level. “Now as we see things the Saudi Cup is coming along as well. We are also starting to coordinate our season with the season in Dubai, which will open up more opportunities for trainers and owners in this part of the world and will attract international runners as well. “So this is very special as we are on the cusp of very exciting times for us in this part of the world. We will be working together with Dubai and starting to align our seasons so that we can all benefit. “Everybody is very excited and we hope this is the first of many things to come.”