Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore and Mike Smith lead the line-up for an innovative seven-a-side male-versus-female international jockeys’ challenge that will kick-start Saudi Cup weekend in Riyadh on Friday, February 28.
World #1 Dettori, #2 Moore and Triple Crown-winner Smith (#7), known as Big-Money Mike in the U.S., will be joined in the men’s team for the Kingdom Day STC International Jockeys Challenge by Japanese icon Yutaka Take (currently world #39) and the outstanding French veteran Olivier Peslier (#48).
Two Saudi-based jockeys are also in the team: Adel Alfouraidi and a second local rider who will be decided after this weekend’s racing. Panama’s Wigberto Ramos, who rode the winner of the important King’s Cup recently, had been due to ride but is out of action after hurting a wrist in a fall on Wednesday.
But much focus will be on the seven women jockeys heading to Saudi Arabia to take on the men, headed by U.S.-based Briton Sophie Doyle, who - at #224 - is the fifth highest-ranked female rider in the world, and the highest in the Northern Hemisphere.
One Southern Hemisphere star who will be taking part is three-time New Zealand champion Lisa Allpress (at #313 currently the tenth highest-ranked female rider in the world).
Also in the women’s team are:
- French sensation Mickaëlle Michel.
- British all-weather champion apprentice Nicola Currie.
- Nanako Fujita, who is Japan’s only female professional and won the Women Jockeys’ World Cup in Sweden last year as well as competing in the women’s team at the Shergar Cup jockey challenge at Ascot.
- Swiss-born, German-based Group-race-winning rider Sibylle Vogt (world #336).
- Canadian legend Emma-Jayne Wilson, winner of over 1,500 races in North America and a Shergar Cup regular.
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, and is sponsored by Saudi Telecom.
Held over four races of an eight-race card, each leg of the challenge carries a prize fund of US$400,000, while the overall winning jockey stands to land a further $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.
“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.
“Our thanks go out to STC, one of Saudi Arabia’s best-known brands, which shares our vision for the future of racing in this country. 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.”
Jockeys will be assigned horses, prepared by Saudi-based trainers, via a draw process held on Tuesday, February 25.
The following points will be given to each jockey according to the placing of his or her mount and the ranking of each jockey will be determined by the total number of points earned over the four races.
1st 15 points
2nd 10 points
3rd 7 points
4th 5 points
5th 3 points
Races will be run on the dirt course at Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Racecourse and will be contested over 1400m (7f), 1600m (1m), 1800m (1m1f) and 1200m (6f). The first three legs are for horses aged four and up, while the final leg is for 3-year-olds only.
The 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 Arabia’s young people.
Saudi Cup weekend will consist of 16 races offering total prize money of more than USD$30 million. It will also feature Saudi Arabia’s first races on a turf track.
Tickets to suit all budgets, for both Kingdom Day and the Saudi Cup, can be purchased at www.thesaudicup.com. Doors open at midday on both days.