Female jockeys ‘most welcome’ to participate in 2020 Saudi Cup: Prince Bandar

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Women are “most welcome” to participate in the Saudi Cup – the world’s richest horse race – next year, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, told BBC Sport on Tuesday.

“Men and women will be treated equally” for the February 29 event, said Prince Bandar, whose comments come as part of reforms taking place in the Kingdom.

The winner of the Saudi Cup’s feature race receives $10 million prize money, with a further $10 million distributed amongst the top 10 finishers. The race is run over nine furlongs (1800 meters) on dirt, with a maximum of 14 runners at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh.

In addition to the $20 million feature race, Prince Bandar announced five new international races at a Saudi Cup launch event on Monday, with three of the five races running on a new turf course. The new races add a further $6.8 million prize money.

“We believe the new races will help make Saudi Cup Day a wonderful sporting occasion. And we will be thrilled to welcome international competitors to these new races. I am especially pleased that we will be having turf racing in Riyadh for the first time. Things are really beginning to take shape,” said Prince Bandar.

Horseracing is a popular sport in the Kingdom, where it has a long history. The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, which Prince Bandar chairs, was formed in 1965.

In August, British three-time flat racing champion jockey Frankie Dettori told Reuters that the dirt track at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh is the one he liked best.

“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,” the 48-year-old said.

“The other thing I like is that the kickback is so much less than on other dirt tracks. I don’t know why, but the sand seems finer and doesn’t stick,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is working to develop its entertainment sector in line with its Vision 2030 economic plan. The Kingdom has also made key reforms centered on women, including giving women the right to drive.

The Saudi Cup “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,” wrote Prince Bandar on the event’s official website.

(With Reuters)