A Love Like No Other

A love of the horse has been ingrained within the people of the Arabian Peninsula for thousands of years. Its position in society and religion has ensured the horse has prestige and reverence. Equestrian pursuits are today still regarded as a facilitator of noble qualities in The Kingdom.

Upon a Hill

Horseracing commenced in the 1920s when His Majesty King Abdulaziz raced horses with his sons in Malez which is now in the heart of Downtown Riyadh. They would sit atop a large hill and watch the spectacle unfold below and it was here that the country’s first racecourse was developed.

The Starting Gate

The first official race followed the establishment in 1965 of the Equestrian Club - now the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia - when a Royal Decree from King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz entrusted presidency of the Club to Prince Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. The racecourse in Taif, now King Khalid Racecourse, also opened during the same decade.

Heading East

Racing grew beyond a pastime for the Royal family and their associates as domestic and international participation expanded so Riyadh’s racing HQ moved to a 9km squared site at Al Janadriya in the north east of the city in 2002. King Abdulaziz Racecourse is now a state-of-the-art venue for up to 25,000 racegoers. The racecourse features a 2000m left-handed dirt track and an 1800m turf track which was added in 2019.

The World’s Richest Race

In 2020 the inaugural Saudi Cup ran. Perhaps the most celebrated moment in Saudi racing history was when local favourite Emblem Road won the 2022 edition of the World’s Richest Race. It achieved Group 1 status in the following year. The Saudi Cup now carries a purse of US$20m and is the world’s richest race. The Saudi Cup now carries a purse of US$20m.

The Spotlight Shifts

Perhaps a further symbol of the Club’s evolution is the International Jockeys Challenge on Saudi Cup weekend which puts the female jockeys in the spotlight. The only event of its kind to feature equal numbers of men and women, these international and local athletes fight it out on locally trained horses over four races. In 2020 history was made as New Zealander Lisa Allpress became the first woman to win a horse race in Saudi Arabia.

A Global Player

A sign of the growing maturity of racing in The Kingdom was further underpinned by the development in 2020 of the Saudi Equestrian Authority to oversee regulatory aspects of Equestrian sports.

An Exciting Future

Today, the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) is pursuing a considered and long-term strategy to rise from its status as a Part II country, a promotion that was achieved in October 2021, to a Part I country in the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities ranking lists. Chaired by HRH Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal, the JCSA is charged with building a world-class horse racing industry that has a positive impact on the country’s sporting, cultural and economic sectors, while promoting Saudi Arabia internationally and strengthening racing across the GCC.