The two-day festival, staged on February 19 and 20 at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, will host 77 overseas contenders representing 13 different countries from around the world, with entries from Bahrain including last year’s stc 1351 Turf Sprint race champion Dark Power.
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“We’ve got the services of jockey Frankie Dettori again this year,” said Royal Stables Bahrain trainer Allan Smith, 70. “Frankie was down here at the Royal Stables last week and gave Dark Power a good examination, and was really pleased with him.
“We’ve only managed to get two runs with Dark Power this season, as there wasn’t too great of a programme for him with the rating he’s got.
“The first run he definitely needed and in his last run he finished third, which he ran into a terrible head wind of about 30 knots.
“However, he’s now on the same racing weight that he went into the Saudi Cup last year on, so we’re very pleased with him.”
Smith, who has trained thousands of winners during his career, added that King Abdulaziz Racecourse’s turf track ground was good to firm last year and Dark Power came out of the race better than he went in. He has also heard that it’s better now than what it was last year.
Dark Power also won the 1351 Cup in Saudi last year and other horses under Smith’s tutelage won races in Belgium, as well as several Kings Cups and Crown Prince Cups in Bahrain. Dark Power holds the track record in Bahrain for 1,200m and 1,000m.
Speaking about the challenges, Smith said: “Expect there to be some top-class horses and top class racing as only the best turn up.”
The Saudi Cup, which features dirt and turf races, was established last year by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia and has grown into one of the leading competitions boasting the highest calibre of racehorses in the world.
Smith, who trains 98 horses at the Royal Stable, added: “What Saudi Arabia did with the Saudi Cup in its first year was just unbelievable and they achieved a very high standard. The quality of racing throughout the Middle East has got very competitive.”
Meanwhile, Bahrain racehorse trainer Fawzi Nass also has runners ready to prove best in show.
Port Lions made history at last year’s Saudi Cup when he won the first ever turf race in Saudi Arabia under jockey Adrie de Vries.
This year he is entering Simsir, Desert Lion, What A Welcome and New Show.
Simsir won the renowned Bahrain International Trophy on November 20 last year.
Nass, who has been training horses since 2001, said: “Simsir is our best horse in Bahrain. He’s had an easy time since his win in November so we thought if we’re going to go to Saudi we need to get a run into him.
“We had the Crown Prince Cup in January, which was a hot race over 10 furlongs, and he finished a close fourth. He did well, he didn’t disgrace himself and we’re happy with that being his prep for the Saudi race.
“Otherwise, Desert Lion, What A Welcome and New Show – the actual winner of the Crown Prince Cup last week – will all be going for the international handicap the day before Saudi Cup day, which is more than 2,100m on the turf.”
Simsir and What A Welcome will be ridden by Adrie De Vries, Desert Lion will hopefully be ridden by Paddy Mathers and New Show will likely be ridden by David Egan.
Nass added: “I’m not sure what the competition will be like, but I’m happy with the way they are and their preparation.”
The Friday race will feature an International Jockeys Challenge that sees seven female and seven male jockeys compete as individuals as well as the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap for horses trained in IFHA-registered Part II and III racing countries. Saturday will feature the $20m Saudi Cup, known as the world’s most valuable race.
Also on Saturday are the 1,200m $1.5m SAUDIA Riyadh Dirt Sprint, the $2.5m Red Sea Turf Handicap and the $1m stc 1351 Turf Sprint.
The galloping bonanza aims to raise awareness of horse racing in the country whilst also encouraging the participation of both men and women in the sport.
For details on entries and races, visit www.thesaudicup.com.sa/
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