Futuristic design for new Prince Mohammed bin Salman Stadium in Qiddiya

Futuristic design for new Prince Mohammed bin Salman Stadium in Qiddiya
Futuristic design for new Prince Mohammed bin Salman Stadium in Qiddiya

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - The Kingdom’s Saudi Cup 2024 has attracted 1,162 entries with horses from 15 countries lining up for various races at the sport’s most valuable event in Riyadh on Feb. 23 and 24.

Among the hopefuls for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia-organized race weekend are 41 group or grade one winners. The US has 123 horses and Japan — the country that produced the 2023 winner Panthalassa — has 110 entries.

Prince Bandar bin Khaled Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “Thank you to all the owners and trainers who made entries to this year’s Saudi Cup meeting. We are looking forward to hosting all our runners and their connections in February and to the privilege of watching these supreme athletes perform at King Abdulaziz Racecourse and sharing that experience with the world.”

“It is great to see that so many of the world’s highest-profile horses hold an entry to our marquee event, which now benefits from race upgrades and increased prize money,” he added.

This year’s event will include a new prize fund worth an additional $2.25 million. The increase reflects the upgrades of the 2,100-meter Neom Turf Cup and the 1351 Turf Sprint to international group two, while the 2,100-meter Al-Mneefah Cup for Purebred Arabians, another turf race, will also run as a group one for the first time.

Amongst the top runners are 2023 Whitney and Breeders Cup Classic winner White Abarrio from the US, Breeders Cup Classic second-place winner Derma Sotagake from Japan, and also from the US leading racers Preakness, National Treasure and Speed Boat Beach.

The reigning 2023 Red Sea Turf Handicap and 1351 Turf Sprint winners Silver Sonic and Bathrat Leon, both from Japan, have been entered for a shot at defending their titles. And fan favorite Casa Creed is likely to race for a third consecutive year, having finished second in the 1351 Turf Sprint in 2022 and 2023.

From Japan the 2023 World Cup winner Ushba Tesoro, and the Dubai Golden Shaheen winner, Sibelius, from the US, are also racing.

Top Japanese dirt horse and Champions Cup winner, Lemon Pop, holds his place in the Saudi Cup entries after winning the qualifier in Chukyo last month.

The Bahrain International Trophy winner, Spirit Dancer, from the UK, who gained an automatic place in the Neom Turf Cup, also features among the entries.

In the domestic ranks, the former US-trained Defunded, now representing the Kingdom; and 2023 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ winner Scotland Yard from the US are also racing. In addition, the King Abdullah Stable’s exciting 3-year-old Taybah Fail could line up in the Saudi Derby.

The Saudi Cup’s two Arabian races, the Obaiya Arabian Classic on the Saturday and the Al-Mneefah Cup on the Friday card are now, for the first time, both Group 1PA races. As befits their status and thanks to prize money of $2 million and $1.5 million respectively, some of the world’s best Arabians have been entered.

They include past winners Tilal Al-Khalediah (KSA - Obaiya), Asfan Al-Khalediah (KSA - Al-Mneefah) and First Class (US - Al-Mneefah). Also among the entries are previously placed horses including Hamdani Al-Khalediah (KSA - Obaiya), Sultana (UK - Al-Mneefah), Bint Ghaliat Al-Khalediah (KSA - Al-Mneefah), Dergham Athbah (UAE - Al-Mneefah) and Soko (France - Al-Mneefah).

Other eye-catching entries include up-and-coming young black-type winners Arjad Athbah from the UK, and France’s Ghadah, Mutbahy Athbah and Najeeb Al-Zaman. There are also some exciting local 4-year-olds, Nadem Al-Molwk Al-Khalediah from the Kingdom and Vizhir from France.

“The Saudi Cup is one of the most important sporting and social occasions in the Kingdom, providing a place for us to come together once a year as a global community to celebrate these magnificent animals at an event that is uniquely Saudi Arabian,” Prince Bandar said.

“Our race card provides interest and excitement across the two days with the International Jockeys Challenge featuring 14 of the top men and women from around the world as well as a race for Part II and Part III racing nations. All this is highlighted of course by the Saudi Cup — the world’s most valuable race and the highlight of our racing year.”

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