Saudi Cup: Female jockeys ‚most welcome‘ at new $27m race meeting

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By Frank Keogh
BBC Sport
Jockeys will be encouraged to get involved in a 27m horse racing meeting in Saudi Arabia.
Next year, the Saudi Cup will be the world’s richest race and can be scheduled to occur in the nation’s capital on 29 February.
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar said feminine jockeys would be“most welcome“ – that the nation has faced criticism over its document on women’s rights.
He told BBC Sport case was a part of attempts to“alter“ the nation.
„Men and women will be treated equally,“ he said when asked about jockeys.
An promotional event in London was attended by British racing figures, including jockey Frankie Dettori and coaches like Sir Michael Stoute and John Gosden.
It is the most recent in a series of sporting events place to be stored in Saudi Arabia, with the world heavyweight title rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua advised to take place in December of boxing.
This has resulted in accusations of“sportswashing“ – that the oil-rich nation is using game to deflect criticism everywhere.
Amnesty International has emphasized the country’s“abysmal“ human rights record.
Substantial limitations on the rights of women and freedom of expression have been raised, as has the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law.
Prince Bandar, whose great uncle Prince Khalid Abdullah has possessed leading racehorses like Frankel and Enable, implied the nation was preparing to get a“more open“ era.
„We’re going through a transformation from the realm. We are studying, but we are opening up and there’s a political will to go there,“ he said.
Jamie Osborne, who trains at Lambourn in Berkshire and saddled Toast Of New York to acquire the UAE Derby five years ago, welcomed the invitation to jockeys.
„If we have a runner, Nicola [Currie] can ride,“ he explained.
It’s the principal race, with prize money of $20m (#16.1m), in King Abdulaziz racetrack in which five other races may have extra prize money totaled $6.8m.
The bud to the primary race has been three times that of Europe contest.
Run to a one-turn dirt circuit, so it is going to have a max of 14 starters, using $10m visiting the winner and even the 10th-placed finisher making $200,000.
Two of the races will take place on the identical track, with three others on a brand new turf course.
One of these races on grass is a’remaining handicap‘ over under 2 miles and might attract the kind of runners who compete at Australia’s Melbourne Cup and also the Ebor Handicap at York.
Organisers expect a racecourse crowd of approximately 12,000 individuals for its opening year, together with ticket buyers guaranteed visas for a nation that has traditionally restricted visitors from overseas.
A group of experts that were racing has been established fast.
Tom Ryan, a man credited with helping Naas racecourse in Ireland, was recruited in January to become tactical director.
The National handicapper that set the weights that horses would carry in the Aintree race, phil Smith, has been drafted in for a function.
Harry Herbert, a British racing figure that is well-connected, is global ambassador.
Leading the project is part of the royal family – Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.
„Our objective is for everyone who attends to appreciate their time, enjoy the race and come back the year after,“ said the prince, who is a fantastic grandson of King Abdulaziz, founder of the modern Saudi Arabia.
Though markets have been fuelled by oil, there’s a demand for additional income streams – which is where tourism and amusement comes in.
Motorsport’s Race of Champions, a European Tour golf event and boxing game including Britain’s Amir Khan are held in Saudi.
Horse racing, and sport more frequently, has been down this path before – benefiting financially in the interest of Dubai and Qatar, in which inquiries also have been increased about equality and freedom of speech.
The fragile situation in the Middle East could have made for some interesting discussions.
But although Saudi and Qatar might not be on speaking terms, it’s understood that Prince Bandar has dealt directly with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed within the project that was rushing.
The Saudi Cup occurs a month before the Dubai World Cup, which for years was the planet’s richest race. Trainers may keep horses from the region to compete at both fixtures.
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