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Saudi Arabia to stage world’s richest race in 2020

JEDDAH: The world has a new richest race, with the announcement of the creation of the $20 million Saudi Cup, to be run at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29, 2020. Details of the contest were announced by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, at…

Saudi Arabia to stage world’s richest race in 2020

JEDDAH: The world has a new richest race, with the announcement of the creation of the $20 million Saudi Cup, to be run at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29, 2020.

Details of the contest were announced by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, at a launch event in Saratoga, New York, on Wednesday.

The race will be run on over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) on dirt, and will have a maximum field of 14 starters. The race will be free to enter and to participate in.

BACKGROUND

The Saudi Cup will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida, and four weeks prior to the Dubai World Cup. 

The Pegasus World Cup had a peak value of $16 million in 2018, while the Dubai World Cup is currently worth $12 million. 

The prize for the winning horse will be $10 million, with horses down to 10th place sharing another $10 million between them.

“The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horseracing 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 horseracing’s world stage,” said Prince Bandar.

“We look forward to welcoming international horsemen and women, the media, racing enthusiasts and the public to Riyadh in 2020.” The Saudi Cup will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida, and four weeks prior to the Dubai World Cup. 

This means that the top horses in training have the opportunity to compete in all three of the most valuable dirt races in the world.

The Pegasus World Cup had a peak value of $16 million in 2018, while the Dubai World Cup is currently worth $12 million. 

In terms of turf races, the richest is in Australia (the Everest) and is worth $9.8 million. In Japan, the mark is $6 million for the Japan Cup. 

Europe’s most lucrative event, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, has a prize fund of $5.6 million.

Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, in Saratoga. (Supplied photo)

Prince Bandar’s connection to horses is an emotional one. Less than a century ago, his great grandfather King Abdul Aziz, a renowned rider and the founding father of modern Saudi Arabia, led his army into battle on horseback, earning himself the title “The Last Horseman.”

In 1932, King Abdul Aziz unified the kingdoms of Nejd and Hijaz, creating the sovereign state of Saudi Arabia. Horseracing soon became an important cultural event in the young nation. 

Its status was enhanced in 2003 with the opening of King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, with a 2,000-meter circumference, a three-furlong (600-meter) chute and a state-of-the-art dirt racing surface.

Many of the world’s leading jockeys have ridden regularly at the racetrack over the past few years, and have been impressed with its facilities.

“I’ve been going to King Abdul Aziz Racetrack ever since it opened … Of all the dirt tracks I’ve ridden, it’s the one I like best as you can win from the front and you can win from behind — it’s a fair track,” said Europe’s jockey of the moment, Frankie Dettori.

The King Abdullah Racetrack in Riyadh, the venue for the $20 million Saudi Cup, which will be the world’s richest horse race. (Supplied photo)

“The other thing I like is that the kickback is so much less than on other dirt tracks. I don’t know why, but the sand seems finer and doesn’t stick. You only need a couple of pairs of goggles, where on other tracks you need four or five. It’s a kinder track that I can see turf horses handling.”

US jockey Edgar Prado said: “In my experience, all the time I rode at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, I’ve found it good and safe with a nice stretch run. Horses handle it very well.”

France’s four-time champion jockey Olivier Peslier said: “King Abdul Aziz Racetrack is one of the best dirt tracks in the world — a wonderful track. And I know that the American jockeys like it very much because it really suits the American horses. It has a long straight, and there isn’t much kickback.”

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will arrange and fund the shipment of all invited horses. It will also arrange and pay for the flights and hotel accommodation of the horses’ connections.

In addition to the Saudi Cup, there will be further international races on the undercard ahead of the showcase race. 

Further details of these supporting races and the full race program will be announced at a later date.

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Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away. “It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played…

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away.

“It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played 75 Tests — but, until now, none at home — said at a press conference in Rawalpindi with his counterpart, Dimuth Karunaratne.

“We thank the Sri Lankan team for coming here. The last Test was also against them so their visit will send a strong message to the world that we need to support each other,” he said.

Eight people were killed and several players and officials were wounded when militants opened fire on the Sri Lankan team bus traveling to a Test in Lahore in 2009.

The attack plunged Pakistan into sporting isolation during its years-long battle with militancy, with all “home” venues played in the UAE.

But with security dramatically improving in recent years international cricket began creeping back starting in 2015, albeit only for limited overs. Sri Lanka will play two Tests under heavy security, one in Rawalpindi and the second in Karachi, ending a decade-long absence for cricket’s five-day format. They will be the first home Tests for all 16 players in the Pakistan squad.

“Cricket is the biggest thing and if the youngsters can’t see matches here then it’s a big loss for our cricket and budding players,” Azhar said.

“I am sure our grounds will host more matches in the years to come.”

Karunaratne — who refused to tour Pakistan for a limited over series in September-October this year —  shared his rival’s sentiments.

“I am really excited … The players are excited to be part of this historic occasion,” he said.

Sri Lanka are on the up in Test cricket after becoming the first Asian team to win a series in South Africa earlier this year.

They then drew a Test series 1-1 against New Zealand at home in August, their first fixture in the World Test championship.

Sri Lanka have not lost a series in Pakistan since 1992 — winning two and drawing two.

They beat Pakistan 2-0 in their last series in UAE two years ago, a win Karunaratne hoped will motivate them.

“We played good cricket in 2017 so that confidence is with us,” he said.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are smarting from a 3-0 defeat in South Africa and 2-0 in Australia this year.

“Test cricket demands discipline and they (Sri Lanka) are a well disciplined side, whether playing at their home or away so we have to play disciplined and good cricket,” Azhar said, adding that as captain he has to “lead by example.” 

He managed just 59 in six innings in South Africa and 62 in four in Australia.

The second Test is in Karachi from Dec. 19.

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sports News

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away. “It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played…

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away.

“It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played 75 Tests — but, until now, none at home — said at a press conference in Rawalpindi with his counterpart, Dimuth Karunaratne.

“We thank the Sri Lankan team for coming here. The last Test was also against them so their visit will send a strong message to the world that we need to support each other,” he said.

Eight people were killed and several players and officials were wounded when militants opened fire on the Sri Lankan team bus traveling to a Test in Lahore in 2009.

The attack plunged Pakistan into sporting isolation during its years-long battle with militancy, with all “home” venues played in the UAE.

But with security dramatically improving in recent years international cricket began creeping back starting in 2015, albeit only for limited overs. Sri Lanka will play two Tests under heavy security, one in Rawalpindi and the second in Karachi, ending a decade-long absence for cricket’s five-day format. They will be the first home Tests for all 16 players in the Pakistan squad.

“Cricket is the biggest thing and if the youngsters can’t see matches here then it’s a big loss for our cricket and budding players,” Azhar said.

“I am sure our grounds will host more matches in the years to come.”

Karunaratne — who refused to tour Pakistan for a limited over series in September-October this year —  shared his rival’s sentiments.

“I am really excited … The players are excited to be part of this historic occasion,” he said.

Sri Lanka are on the up in Test cricket after becoming the first Asian team to win a series in South Africa earlier this year.

They then drew a Test series 1-1 against New Zealand at home in August, their first fixture in the World Test championship.

Sri Lanka have not lost a series in Pakistan since 1992 — winning two and drawing two.

They beat Pakistan 2-0 in their last series in UAE two years ago, a win Karunaratne hoped will motivate them.

“We played good cricket in 2017 so that confidence is with us,” he said.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are smarting from a 3-0 defeat in South Africa and 2-0 in Australia this year.

“Test cricket demands discipline and they (Sri Lanka) are a well disciplined side, whether playing at their home or away so we have to play disciplined and good cricket,” Azhar said, adding that as captain he has to “lead by example.” 

He managed just 59 in six innings in South Africa and 62 in four in Australia.

The second Test is in Karachi from Dec. 19.

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Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

ALKHOBAR: Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship title rivals Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Yasir Seaidan top an impressive entry of 51 cars, 9 NUTVs, 10 motorcycles, 23 quads and 1 truck that will tackle this weekend’s Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the inaugural series. While the Saudi duo go head-to-head to decide the outcome…

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

ALKHOBAR: Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship title rivals Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Yasir Seaidan top an impressive entry of 51 cars, 9 NUTVs, 10 motorcycles, 23 quads and 1 truck that will tackle this weekend’s Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the inaugural series.

While the Saudi duo go head-to-head to decide the outcome of the drivers’ championship across the barren sands of the Eastern Province — with Al-Rajhi holding a three-point lead over his rival — a host of opponents will be challenging for overall honors in the event based out of the Holiday Inn on Half Moon Bay near Alkhobar.

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi returns to action in his Peugeot 2008, with double Dakar winner Carlos Sainz and Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal heading a car entry that also includes all the usual Saudi protagonists across the various T1, T2 and T3 categories.

Another driver making his first appearance on the Saudi sands in advance of the 2020 Dakar Rally, is former WRC driver Conrad Rautenbach. The Zimbabwean has entered a Can-Am Maverick X3 in the FIA T3 category and will be partnered by Portugal’s Pedro Bianchi Prata. Rautenbach formerly drove for the Citroën Junior Team in the FIA World Rally Championship and won the FIA African series in 2007 and 2011.

Yousef Al-Dhaif holds a winning points’ cushion in the NUTV Championship at the helm of his Can-Am, but the Saudi faces eight rivals in the Eastern Province, including Fahad Al-Naim and Salah Al-Saif.

Mishal Alghuneim has already clinched the motorcycle title and will lock horns with the likes of Hashyan Al-Hashyan and Abdullah Al-Helal for the last time before he readies his KTM for the onslaught of a first Dakar appearance in January. The UAE’s Othman Al-Ghufeli is the only non-Saudi entered on two wheels on this occasion.

Despite disappointment at the last round in Riyadh, winning performances in the Qassim Rally and AlUla-Neom Cross-Country event have given Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi a 21-point advantage in the quad section over Riyadh Al-Oraifan. The pair will decide the outcome of the title race in Half Moon Bay with a further 21 rivals challenging for honors in the increasingly popular category.

The Saudi trio of Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb have entered a Mercedes truck in T4 at the rear of the field.

Baja officials have now confirmed that Thursday afternoon’s opening super special stage will run for 4.32 kilometers, and precedes challenging desert selective sections of 257.44 kilometers and 213.10 kilometers on Friday and Saturday.

The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of former FIA Middle East Champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

The new baja runs with the support of SAMF, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia Outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. It is also being observed as an official candidate for future inclusion in the FIA World Cup for cross-country bajas.

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