The Saudi Cup to be horse racing's richest ever race with $20 million prize fund

Inaugural staging of the event to take place in February 2020 at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh

The King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, which will host the Saudi Cup, in February 2020. Courtesy of Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia
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The Saudi Cup is to become the richest horse race in the sport's history after the prize money for the inaugural contest in Riyadh in February 2020 was confirmed to be $20 million (Dh73.4m).

Announcing the first staging of the event on Wednesday, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, the chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horse racing 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 horse racing’s world stage."

The race, to be held on February 29 at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack, will have a maximum field of 14 runners and be run over nine furlongs (1,800m) on dirt.

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

The Pegasus World Cup, a race in the United States, previously had the record for richest prize fund for a single race with its total of $16m in 2018, though that purse was dropped to $9m for this year.

The Dubai World Cup, which takes place on March 28, has $12m on offer for its title race, but will remain the richest race meeting with a prize total of $35m.

Saudi Arabia's big day of racing will take place four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup, but a month before the Dubai World Cup.

This scheduling is to allow and encourage the leading trainers to have their top horses compete in all three of the most valuable dirt races in the world.

Veteran jockey Frankie Dettori, who has a long experience of racing in the UAE, including three Dubai World Cup wins, is confident that the Saudi Cup will be a hit.

"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," he said.

French champion jockey Olivier Peslier added:  "A wonderful track and I know that the American jockeys like it very much because it really suits the American horses."

An undercard of races to support the main event will be announced at a later date.

The news is the latest development in the increase of big horse races taking place in the Middle East.

Last month the Bahrain International Trophy, a £200,000 (Dh920,000) race on turf, was announced for an inaugural staging on November 22.

Sheikh Salman bin Rashed Al Khalifa, the executive director of Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club, had said at the time he believed more racing would be taking place in the region.

"I’m sure the plan is to host more international races and we would love to attract a big number of owners and trainers," he said.