There is no doubt that horse racing is one of the most-awaited and richest sporting events around the world. Well, one of these is the Saudi Cup. It is an international horse race held at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Believe it or not, it is regarded as one of the richest horse racing events. In fact, it has a total of 20 million dollars in purse prize. In case you are wondering, the racecourse is named after the Kingdom’s founder and first king.
It is a two-day event organized by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia. One of the reasons why it is also one of the most popular horse racing events in the world is because it features high-quality dirt and turf races as well as the highest calibre racehorses.
The great thing about this race is that it also encourages both male and female jockeys to join even with its strict cultural rules. It is also a way for the Kingdom to promote on an international level and to encourage more tourists and investors.
Another reason why it is regarded as one of the richest horse racing events in the world is because of its partners. Some of these are:
- Al Rajhi Bank - known as one of the largest banks in the world
- STC - a telecommunications company with the aim to provide digital solutions
- Saudia - the national flag carrier of the Kingdom which is regarded as a Five-Star Global Airline
- Bentley - one of the most popular and sought after luxury car brands
The Precautionary Measures
Unfortunately, the Saudi Cup 2021 has to be held behind closed doors. All of the staff and guests are expected to follow strict precautionary measures. This is to make sure that everyone’s health is safe. Some of the protocols observed are:
- All guests should submit a negative PCR test released by the Ministry of Health (MOH)
- A special exemption linked to visa should be submitted for international guests
- Guests coming from the airport will be fetched by fully sanitized vehicles and taken directly to designated accommodation or hotel
- All attendees are required to be tested regularly
The Saudi Cup is also an invite-only event. Unregistered guests are not allowed to enter the venue. However, there are more than 2,500 guests and media who attended. According to horse racing news sites, it became an invite-only event to strictly follow the COVID-19 safety protocols.
The Saudi Cup 2021
What makes this season legendary is the $30 million total purse prize. What’s interesting is that Japanese racehorses dominated this event. As they say, the Japanese horses were back on track after losing during the inaugural of the Saudi Cup in 2020.
A total of five horse teams flew from Japan to join the events held on the first day. These are the Saudi Derby (1,600 metres), Riyadh Dirt Sprint (1,200 metres), and Saudi Cup (1,800 meters).
Even if Japan has dominated the race, Mishriff won with David Egan as his jockey. Mishriff is an Irish-bred but British-trained Thoroughbred who is also regarded as one of the promising two-year-olds in 2019. What’s amazing is that the Saudi Cup is actually his first run as a four-year-old.
Mishriff made his debut in a novice race over a heavy ground with seven furlongs at the Yarmouth Racecourse with Rob Havlin as his jockey. It was also when he was recognized as one of the promising racehorses.
In 2020, Mishriff was sent to Riyadh to participate in the Saudi Derby (1,600 metres). Even though he had a rough start, he finished second out of the thirteen participants. He was about to join the 2020 flat race season in Ireland and England but was halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Months later, he was sent to France to race in the Prix du Jockey Club (2,100 metres) at the Chantilly Racecourse. On the other hand, the other runners are Chachnak, Victor Ludorum, Gold Trip, and many more.
In August, Mishriff also raced in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (2,000 metres) at Deauville Racecourse with a heavy ground. Mishriff ended his 2020 season in the Champion Stakes at the Ascot Racecourse. He was actually the second-best bet but finished eight out of the ten runners.
Mishriff started his campaign at the Saudi Cup once again. Fortunately, he was able to win the race after being behind Charlatan and Knicks Go. Egan actually said that it is actually the best jump that Mishriff made. He was also surprised at how well he performed throughout the race.
It was definitely one of the most rewarding moments as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman awarded three trophies to the owner of Mishriff, his jockey, and Thady Gosden on behalf of his father John, who is also a trainer.
The Only Representative
In the field of 12, Pink Kamehameha is actually the only Japanese representative. Breaking from gate no.8, he went for the goal and won a total of $900,000. During the Saudi Derby, he also won a total of $1.5 million in a victory against Cowan.
‘It was my first ride on him today but he produced a fantastic run even on his first-time race over the dirt surface. As he has no issues with the starting gate, he jumped quickly from the gate today. He responded to me well and had a comfortable trip all the way’, Hideyuki Mori said, Pink Kamehameha’s trainer.
‘Everything went perfect today. He showed a very good response to the jockey at the final turn, which was kind of surprising to me. He ran on dirt for the first time, but today's surface with a bit of rain-affected track must suit him a lot’, he added.
The One-Two Finish
At the Riyadh Dirt Sprint, Copano Kicking and Matera Sky won $1.2 million all together after a one-two finish. Capano Kicking is a 6-year-old gelding owned by Sachiaki Kobayashi. He had a rough start but eventually managed to catch up and won first place.
His trainer, Akira Murayama admitted that it is actually his first time to bid overseas and did his absolute best even if he is not sure if the Saudi Arabian course will suit Copano Kicking or not. This is also because he is sensitive and easily agitated which made him difficult to train.
Trained by Hideyuki Mori, Matera Sky finished second place. No one actually thought that he'd win the race since he was always overtaken in the previous races. Nevertheless, he still made his home country proud.
Justin is Japan’s other runner in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint. He was ridden by Ryusei Sakai. His spot in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint is actually the result of him landing on the G3 Capella Stakes at the Nakayama Racecourse. With his performance on the track, he finished in 6th with total prize money of $30,000.
The Second Win
Leontes is a Japanese Thoroughbred racehorse who is also regarded as one of the best two-year-old racehorses in 2015. This is also because he won in a minor race and his performance at the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes.
He also won second in the Yayoi Sho, fourth in Satsuki Sho, and fifth in Tokyo Yushun. However, Leontes was on a break due to an injury. Months later, he was able to come back stronger and gave his trainer, Hideyuki Mori his second win in the Saudi Derby.
Japan’s Only Runner
Chuwa Wizard is actually the only runner of the country in the 1,800-metre dirt race. He is a Thoroughbred horse trained by Ryuji Okubo. What’s interesting is that he is the 6-year-old son of King Kamehameha. However, he failed to gain ground and finish 9th in the Saudi Cup. With this, Shinobu Nakanishi, his owner, only won a total of $300,000.
The 2021 Winners
The 2021 Saudi Cup is also regarded as one of the most-awaited sporting events in the world because of the outstanding racehorse participants. Some of these are:
Charlatan is a four-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Starlight Racing. He showed a great performance but unfortunately finished in second place. Baffert said that the duel between Charlatan and Knicks Go definitely made the race more exciting.
Great Scot is a five-year-old gelding owned by HRH Prince Faisal bin Khaled and trained by Abdullah Mushrif. He finished the race in 3rd place.
Knicks Go is trained by Brad H. Cox and owned by the Korea Racing Authority. Together with his jockey Joel Rosario, they finished the race at 4th place. He is also regarded as a record-setter who won the 2021 Maryland Horse of the Year.
Sleepy Eyes Todd
Sleepy Eyes Todd is a five-year-old quintessential blue-collar hero who was also in the field for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes. What’s interesting is that he was purchased for $9,000 and also won a total of 8 out of 15 races trained by Miguel Silva. Together with his jockey Alexis Moreno, they finished the race at 5th place.
Military Law is a six-year-old gelding trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri and owned by Nasir Akar. Although he defeated rivals from America and Europe, he ended up in the 6th position together with Antonio Frescu, his jockey.
Tacitus is an American Thoroughbred racehorse who won in Tampa Bay Derby, Wood Memorial Stakes, and Suburban Stakes. He is also trained by William Mott and owned by Juddmonte Farms Inc. Together with his jockey William Buick, they finished in 7th place.
Bangkok is a five-year-old horse owned by King Power Racing Co Ltd and trained by Andrew Balding. He finished the race in 8th place ridden by Ryan Moore. Balding also said that Bangkok actually performed well because he had never tried running on dirt before. This only proves that Bangkok is one of the most versatile horses out there.
Derevo is a five-year-old colt trained by Abdullah Mushrif and owned by HRH Prince Faisal bin Khaled. Together with his jockey Cristian Demuro, they finished the race at 10th place. What’s interesting is that he is also a Thoroughbred horse from the United Kingdom.
Max Player is a four-year-old colt trained by Steven Asmussen and owned by George Hall. He is also a Thoroughbred horse from the United States of America. Mickael Barzalona was his jockey when Max Player finished in 11th place.
Global Giant is a six-year-old horse trained by John Gosden and owned by Al Adiyat Racing. He was ridden by Lanfranco Dettori and finished in 12th place. He is also a Thoroughbred horse from the United Kingdom.
Extra Elusive is a six-year-old horse trained by Roger Charlton and owned by Imad Alsagar. It might not be obvious but Extra Elusive is one of the promising racehorses. However, the invitation to the Saudi Cup is actually a surprise. Nevertheless, he finished the race in 13th place together with Hollie Doyle, his jockey.
Simsir is a five-year-old gelding trained by Fawzi Abdulla Nass and owned by Victorious. Believe it or not, Nass is actually a ground-breaking trainer. Although Simsir won in the Bahrain International, he finished the race in 14th place.
There is no doubt that the Saudi Cup is among the hottest talks of the town, especially on horse racing news sites. Another reason is that it is attended by known personalities in the Kingdom. What’s impressive is that the event was a success even if there are a lot of safety precautions that need to be observed.
Love it or hate it, horse racing events have a huge impact on the country’s economy. This is probably one of the reasons why the Kingdom is encouraging all outstanding jockeys to participate in this event.