Recently, everyone saw history getting created twice at Riyadh’s King Abdul Aziz Racetrack. First, the total prize money of $ 20 million made it horse racing’s richest ever event and second, it was for the first time that women jockeys were allowed to publicly compete against male counterparts in Saudi Arabia.
Lisa Allpress, the Kiwi rider who participated in the International Jockeys Challenge emerged as the first-ever female jockey to win a horse race in Saudi Arabia. The same day Sibylle Vogt of Switzerland, another female jockey who took part in the challenge, came second after Mike Smith, creating another important milestone in the Kingdom.
A first for Saudi Arabia
Nora Al-Yusuf, who is Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women’s Chief Strategy Officer also used to race for the Saudi Endurance team at one point of time. She talked about the event as being a very emotional affair considering the female participation. Talking to the Arab News, Nora said that she finds it quite ironic as she has represented her country in the past but couldn’t race inside it as women were banned from mixed public races back then. She showed excitement at how male and female equality is now a part of the Saudi Arabia’s sports industry, and equestrian sports being one of the first few where women are being allowed to compete against men.
The event has introduced Riyadh’s beautiful racetrack to the world
Being considered the best of all the top animal races known to humankind, horse racing has always been popular in the kingdom. The country’s Jockey Club came into being in 1965, over five decades ago. It used to hold an annual event meant for local families having racing interests and investments.
Salwa Abuljadayel, a communications specialist said that she grew up in Riyadh and was never aware of horse races happening every weekend here! It used to be a family affair and quite different from the event that the first Saudi Cup. She feels that the event has revealed the beautiful horse racing track in Riyadh to the rest of the world. She further exclaimed that when she started working for Saudi Cup, it had less than 10 Instagram posts, and now they run into thousands. She finds it nice that Saudis are finally battling against international jockeys on their home track.
As everyone might be aware, Maximum Security won the inaugural Saudi Cup, and with it also the $ 10 million prize money. The Jason Servis trained and Luis Saez ridden four-year old horse won the race as many had predicted. Midnight Bisou came second and Godolphin’s Benbatl came third, winning $ 3.5 million and $ 2 million respectively.
In many ways, although the event saw history getting made in Saudi Arabia, it was a dream come true race for female sports people of the country. Michael Kinane, the former racing jockey from Ireland talked about racing at the club 18 years ago and always considered it the best horse racing track in the world. He feels that for this inaugural race to happen with only 6 to 8 months’ preparation is something fantastic. In a nutshell, it’s all about putting the prize money and the horses will arrive from everywhere!