Track work at King Abdulaziz Racetrack
Track work at King Abdulaziz Racetrack Image Credit: Saudi Cup

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia is geared up to host the world’s richest horse race, the $20 million Saudi Cup at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday, despite concerns of the spreading coronavirus.

There were fears that several top jockeys who were stranded in different parts of the world, would not be allowed to enter the Kingdom following a travel band and the closure of Saudi’s borders late on Wednesday.

However, following a Royal decree, stars such as Frankie Dettori were allowed special permission to fly in to compete in Friday’s curtain raiser to Saturday’s ground breaking race meet – the International Jockeys Challenge.

History will be made when seven top female riders will become the first women to compete in Saudi Arabia when they join seven male counterparts to compete for bragging rights in the Challenge, a four-race points competition.

The diverse group of jockeys includes some of the best riders from around the world, including America-beased Sophie Doyle, Britain’s Nicola Currie and three-time New Zealand champion Lisa Allpress.

Sports such as horse racing hope to drive Saudi Arabia into a new era and the Saudi Cup is at the forefront of its 2030 vision to transform the country into a modern state.

Over the past year Saudi Arabia has staged several high-profile events, including a heavyweight boxing match involving British champion Anthony Joshua and Mexican Andy Ruiz, in December.

“We’re delighted to welcome some of the best jockeys in the business to compete,” said Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.

“Racing routinely sees male and female riders compete on a level playing field and we’re proud to continue this great tradition.”

Prince Bandar, comes from the family of the late Prince Khalid Abdullah, the founder of Juddmonte Farms, who bread the legendary racehorse, Frankel