Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow could be among the big names at Saudi Cap. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The sky appears to be the limit for where the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia is headed with the organisers adding two more races to a scintillating race programme that is showcased by the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup, which will be run on February 29, 2020 at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh.

A 2,000 metre contest for Purebred Arabians will carry a record purse of $1.9 million (Dh6.9 million), the richest ever for the breed, while a $500,000 nine-furlong handicap for thoroughbreds trained in Saudi Arabia has been added to the card, taking the total purse for the eight-race meeting to a staggering $29.2 million.

It is surpassed only by the nine-event Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan, which was worth $35 million in 2019.

Speaking at a special event in Riyadh on Monday evening, Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club Of Saudi Arabia, told a gathering of over 300 racing professionals and media that each and every race would be contended by horses trained in Saudi Arabia as well as by the world’s best.

Prince Bandar revealed that at least two places in each of the seven international races — including the $20 million Saudi Cup itself and the three races on the new turf course at King Abdulaziz Racetrack — would be reserved for Saudi-trained horses.

“Our Saudi Cup day is providing all of us here in the racing community of Saudi Arabia with wonderful new opportunities,” he said.

“For the first time, Saudi jockeys, trainers and owners will be able to pit their talents and their horses against some of the best in the sport. The chance to compete against the world’s finest is the chance to learn from the best.

“The Saudi Cup is about creating an iconic moment in the global racing calendar, but also — at its heart — it is about growing our sport in the Kingdom for the Kingdom,” he added.

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia also disclosed details of the new rules regarding race day medication, bringing the Kingdom into line with other racing nations, including Britain, France, Ireland and Dubai.

Prince Bandar is also hopeful that the sport of horse racing will reach out to potential new fans.

“Our people have raced their horses across the dunes for many centuries,” he said.

“Today, that passion is a mature sport with 50 years of organisation behind us. The Saudi Cup will help us demonstrate our sport to our fellow Saudis, and it is our hope that this marvellous day of sport will excite new generations with the thrill of racing.”

Prince Bandar earlier revealed that the date for the Saudi Cup was carefully chosen keeping in mind the Pegasus Cup which takes place at the end of January and the Dubai World Cup that has been staged on the last Saturday in March since its inception in 1996.

“We’d like it to be a memorable experience, we’d like for it to be a special experience, and we’d like it to be an opportunity for us to showcase horse racing in the Lingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Prince Bandar.

“We also would like for it to be an opportunity for people to come and visit that part of the world, see the culture, see the people, and understand it.”