Frankie Dettori, right, speaks with jockeys at the track in Riyadh
Frankie Dettori, right, speaks with jockeys at the track in Riyadh Image Credit: Saudi Cup

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Fourteen of the world’s best jockeys, including seven female riders, will compete for bragging rights in a unique Shergar Cup-style international Jockeys Challenge at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on Friday.

The four-race, points-based competition is designed to act as a curtain-raiser to the inaugural running of the $20million Saudi Cup which takes place on Saturday.

Mike Smith

The all-star men’s line-up includes Mike Smith, the most successful Breeders’ Cup jockey of all time, the multiple Classic and Group 1 winning rider Frankie Dettori, 11-time British Classic winning rider Ryan Moore, Japanese superstars Yutaka Take and Nanako Fujita and French legend Olivier Peslier.

Three-time New Zealand Champion Mickaelle Michel, American Grade 1 winner Sophie Doyle, and Canadian great and winner of 1,500 races Emma-Jayne Wilson are joined by the evergreen Lisa Allpress, UK’s Nicola Currie, and the Swiss-born German-based Pattern-winning rider Sibylle Vogt on a glittering team of female jockeys who will make history in Saudi Arabia.

The Jockeys Challenge, the first of its kind to be held in Saudi Arabia, is the main draw of Kingdom Day, the first of day of Saudi Cup race weekend.

Mickaelle Michel

Held over four races of an eight-race card, each leg of the Challenge carries a prize fund of $400,000 with the overall winning jockey set to pocket an additional $30,000 winner’s purse.

Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia said: “We are delighted to welcome some of the best jockeys in the business to compete at the first STC International Jockeys Challenge. Racing is a sport that routinely sees male and female riders compete on a level playing field and we are proud to continue this great tradition at King Abdulaziz Racecourse during Saudi Cup weekend.

Sophie Doyle

“A jockeys’ challenge is always a crowd pleaser and we think that with seven women and seven men competing over four races, as well as plenty of family entertainment and top class hospitality, we are offering an exciting and unique event to the people of Riyadh and wider Saudi Arabia.

“It is interesting that we have received more than 300 entries for the four support races on the Kingdom Day card, demonstrating the interest that is already being generated within the industry for Saudi Cup weekend. We encourage anyone who has an interest in racing to come along to watch these exceptional athletes, both equine and human, compete on the world stage.”

Emma Jane Wilson

The format for the Jockeys’ challenge will see each rider assigned horses, prepared locally by Saudi-based trainers, via a draw process. Points will be given to each jockey according to the placing of his or her mount. The winner will be determined by the jockey with the most points at the end of the four races which will be run on the dirt course over distances of 1400m (7f), 1600m (1m), 1800m (1m 1f) and 1200m (6f) respectively.

The International Jockeys Challenge reflects the values of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which lays out a programme of targets for diversification and increased sporting participation among Saudi’s young people.

In all Saudi Cup weekend will consist of 16 races offering total prizemoney of more than $30 million.