Saudi Arabia is to stage the richest horse in history next year with a $20 million prize pot up for grabs in the latest venture to attract world-class sporting events to the nation.
The new Saudi cup will comfortably eclipse horse racing’s previous richest individual race, the Pegasus World Cup, which peaked at a purse of $16 million in 2018 before dropping back behind $12 million Dubai World Cup.
The race will be free to enter and will be contested by a maximum of 14 horses with the winner pocketing $10 million, the second receiving $3.5 million and the remaining purse handed out to the rest of the field.
The Saudi Cup will take place at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh on February 29 – between the Pegasus and the Dubai World Cup – and will be contested on dirt over nine furlongs (1.800 meters).
The announcement comes just days after the country revealed plans to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix as soon as the 2021 season.
“The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horses racing in Saudi Arabia, and demonstrate 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 stage”, said Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faidal at the launch event in Saratoga, New York State.
“We look forward to welcoming horsemen and women, the media, racing enthusiasts and the public to Riyadh in 2020”.
Veteran Italian jockey Frankie Dettori said in a statement announcing the race: “I’ve been going to King Abdulaziz Racetrack ever since it opened. Of all the dirt tracks I’ve ridden, it’s the one I like the best, as you can win from the front, an you can win from behind – it’s a fair track”.
Sport is playing an increasing part in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to modernize Saudi Arabia, relax the conservative social code and improve in its controversial global image.