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Saudi jockeying for position with world’s richest race

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Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AFP) – The Saudi Cup’s $20 million prize fund is helping to raise the kingdom’s racing profile, trainers say, as payouts in other Gulf racing mainstays dip because of economic pressures and the pandemic.

Won by 21-year-old David Egan on his Saudi-owned mount Mishriff, the race was run this year with fewer US entries because of the logistical challenges posed by coronavirus and Saudi Arabia’s strict testing and quarantine requirements.

“It’s fabulous to be connected with such a class horse,” Egan said after claiming the prize on last year’s French Derby winner trained by John Gosden in England.

The four-year-old prevailed late over Charlatan, on his fourth career start, at the unusually chilly King Abdulaziz racecourse in the capital Riyadh to take home the $10 million winner’s share.

“You’re coming here for some decent prize money. It’s the same with the Arc day in France, Royal Ascot, the Breeders’ Cup — it’s all about competing for decent prize money,” said British trainer Allan Smith who had two runners in the supporting races.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, sponsored by Saudi’s wealthy neighbour Qatar, had a three million euro ($3.64 million) prize purse in 2020.

Smith said he thought Saudi had “a better chance” than other nations in the Gulf to maintain lavish prize money.

Smith said Saudi “had a bit of cash to hold them over in these times”.

In 2019 the total prize money for Dubai World Cup carnival night grew $5 million to $35 million. In 2021 the fixture will have a $26.5 million prize fund.

 

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