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RIYADH: Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Equestrian Authority and the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday stated that Riyadh will become the focus of the international racing world when the prestigious 2023 Saudi Cup takes place on Feb. 24-25.

The Saudi Cup is the world’s richest horse race and since its inception in 2020 has become one of the social and sporting highlights of the Kingdom’s burgeoning events calendar, combining the best of fashion, culture, lifestyle and family activities with the thrilling world of international horse racing.

Won last year by Prince Saud bin Salman Abdulaziz’s local runner Emblem Road (US), now one of the most famous horses in the world, the showpiece Saudi Cup is broadcast to more than 350 million homes worldwide across the globe, from the US and Europe to China, South America and Southeast Asia.

Prince Bandar told Arab News: “There are a lot of horses from across the world that come to Saudi Arabia to run during the regular season. These horses have a lot of followers from across the world, whether it’s the people who are involved in breeding or sales or people who are fans of that particular horse.”

Held at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, the Saudi Cup provides two days of top-tier on-track horse racing action consisting of 16 races and boasting a combined prize purse of $35 million. 

This makes the Saudi Cup the most valuable horse racing event in the world, and the greatest racehorses, jockeys, trainers and owners will meet in Riyadh to compete against the very best of Saudi’s racing industry for a slice of the winnings.

“Sports activities do rely a lot on the media,” Prince Bandar said. “The media is very important, and partnership with the media is important. There are a lot of people who follow these sports not only on a local or regional level but on a global level.”

Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Equestrian Authority and the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, interviewed by Arab News reporter Ghadi Joudah. AN photo by Basheer Saleh

As well as the Saudi Cup, the two-day race card also features the Group 1 Obaiya Arabian Classic for Purebred Arabian racehorses, five highly regarded Group 3 races on both dirt and turf and the Jockey Club Handicap for locally trained horses.

Prince Bandar expressed his pride at seeing upgrades in a number of races as well as witnessing the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia advancing to Part 2 of the IFHA Blue Book — the global ranking of racing jurisdictions.

Big changes were made for this year’s race to accommodate the new capacity of 22,000 attendees. New elements such as buildings, entertainment zones, and food and beverages have been added, with customer experience being at the forefront of the Saudi Cup. 

Princess Princess Noura Al-Faisal, consultant at the Jockey Club, told Arab News that the new zones will be ideal for families as they include a museum, children’s fun areas, escape rooms, and many more activities happening alongside the race. 

“If you want to come, you have to be dressed up and you take part in the whole cultural event, and that in itself is a lovely thing,” she said. “This year, we have over 200 fashion designers as opposed to the 100 who participated last year. So, you’re going to see a lot of beautiful, colorful costumes, and we have a whole red carpet area just for that.”

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