Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The wait is finally over!
The much-anticipated Saudi Cup meeting, featuring some of the world’s best equine athletes, got off to an explosive start at the King Abdul Aziz Racecourse in Riyadh at 4.00pm, local time.
The exciting eight-race programme is highlighted by the $20million Saudi Cup (8.40pm local) which is poised to became the richest race on the planet after the $12m Dubai World Cup (G1).
The Saudi Cup is the latest chapter in a transformational period for the past year that has already gone a long way into capturing the attention of the world by the hosting major sports events including boxing, Formula E racing, European Tour golf events and the Spanish Super Cup.
It also plans to stage other sports including snooker, tennis and WWE.
The historic Saudi Cup race meeting in Riyadh could not have got off to a better start with the opening race, the Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup, delivering a battling finish between three horses.
Favourite Deirdre, Japan’s globetrotting mare, was shaping like the winner with less than 50 metres to run, but Bahraini raider Port Lions swooped late to snatch victory from Dubai’s Over The Top, ridden by Mickael Barzalona for Emirati handler Salem Bin Ghadayer.
Although Port Lions was sent off as a 33/2 outsider winning trainer Fawzi Naas said he was not surprised with the result.
“Look, you’ve got to take your chances in race meeting like these,” he said. “Our fella has a good turn of foot and we expected him to be competitive. The result is very special as this is the first ever turf race run in Saudi Arabia. It’s a good addition of the CV!”
Race 1 Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup
Purse (4YO plus, 9 run) 2,000m - Turf
1. Port Lions (trained by Fawzi Naas) ridden by Adrie de Vries.
2. For The Top (Salem Bin Ghadayer) Mickael Barzalona
3. Deirdre (Mitsuri Hashida) Oisin Murphy.
4. Intelligent (Fabrice Chappet) Pierre-Charles Boudot
Royal Youmzain, Mount Everest, Trais Fluors, Imagen De Roma.
Winning distances: Neck, 2 ¼, 2 ¾.