SAUDI ARABIAN racing officials have claimed they are absolutely thrilled by the global interest in races that will make up the inaugural $29.2m Saudi Cup card on 29 February. An impressive total of 964 entries have been received for the historic first ever multi million racenight at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, with no less than 32 Group or Grade One winners interested in the featured $20m Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable horse race, which starts a new chapter in Saudi Arabian horse racing. With three of the eight races scheduled to be run on grass, a turf track is being laid out for the first time in the country’s racing history.
The Saudi Cup carries the richest prize for a single contest in the world with a staggering $20m on offer. And the 1800m dirt affair has attracted a total of 143 nominations, representing four continents, 16 countries and more than 60 trainers around the globe. Among the entries for the 1800m feature are multiple Grade One winning mare Midnight Bisou, trained by Steve Asmussen, Grade 1 Cigar Mile winner and four time Grade One star, Maximum Security, prepared by Jason Servis, and the Bob Baffert-trained Breeder’s Cup Classic runner-up, McKinzie. All three will carry the flag for the United States.
The first turf races to ever be held in Saudi Arabia have received an impressive list of entries too. The 2100m $2.5m Neom Turf Cup entry list includes Aidan O’Brien’s incredibly tough mare, Magic Wand, who ended a hectic Australian campaign with victory in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes in November, as well as her stablemate, Anthony Van Dyck, the Epsom Derby winner. Recent Group 2 Singspiel Stakes winner, Benbatl, trained by Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor, has been entered for both the 2100m Neom Turf Cup as well as the Saudi Cup on the dirt. Also holding an entry in the Neom Turf Cup is Japanese star and Goodwood Nassau Stakes winner, Deirdre, trained by Mitsuru Hashida, and who is currently based in Newmarket.
A very strong Red Sea Turf Handicap held over 3000m boasts entries from O’Brien’s multiple Group One winning Kew Gardens, the globetrotting Prince Of Arran and the Charlie Appleby-trained Melbourne Cup winner, Cross Counter. Meanwhile the Purebred Arabian entries in the 2000m $1.9m Obaiya Arabian Classic on the dirt are headlined by local star, Tallaab Al Khalediah, one of three entries trained by Saudi Arabian, Saad bin Mutlaq. Tom Ryan, director of strategy and international racing for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia was thrilled by the strong levels of global interest in the raceday. “The response to the Saudi Cup from the international racing community has been fantastic,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier with the entries that we’ve received and we are now fully focused on putting on a spectacular first Saudi Cup raceday to live up to the calibre of these entries.” Entries will now be narrowed down to final fields, based on ratings allocated by former BHA senior handicapper, Phil Smith.