A raft of upgrades covering the 2023-2024 Riyadh season and 2024 Saudi Cup have been announced by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, with prize money for the world’s richest weekend of racing boosted to $37.35m across the Riyadh racing extravaganza.
Next year’s Saudi Cup, to be held Friday 23 and Saturday 24 February 2024 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, will include a new prize fund worth an additional $2m compared to the 2023 renewal. The increase reflects the upgrades of the 2,100m Neom Turf Cup and the 1351 Turf Sprint to global Group 2 while the 2100m Al Mneefah Cup for Purebred Arabians will also run as a Group 1 for the first time.
The Neom Turf Cup, which was won in February in impressive style by the John & Thady Gosden-trained Mostahdaf, who has gone on to become a dual Group 1 winner this season, and the 1351 Turf Sprint, won by Japanese runner, Bathrat Leon, have both seen their prize funds boosted from $1.5m to $2m.
On the Friday card, the Al Mneefah Handicap saw an increase from $1m to $1.5m, while the 1800m Jockey Club Local Handicap on the dirt, receives a prize money boost of $500,000 to $1.5m
The Saudi International Handicap, a race for Thoroughbreds from Part II and Part III racing jurisdictions moves from the Friday to the Saturday of Saudi Cup, forms part of a nine-race card.
Alongside the upgrades to the Saudi Cup meeting, further improvements to the domestic Riyadh season have also been announced, including the introduction to the international pattern of the Crown Prince Cup (December 16, 2023) and the King Faisal Cup (January 13, 2024) which will be run as Listed races.
In another key alteration, the Listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup (January 27, 2024) has been reduced in distance to the same 1800m as The Saudi Cup from 2000m, to better reflect its status as a key qualifier for the $20m contest.
In addition, the Riyadh season, which is set to begin on October 26 and run until March 16, 2024, will see the total number of races increase to 700, with an additional 66 Purebred Arabian races added to the calendar. Each race meeting will be extended to 12 races, with 10 for Thoroughbreds and two for Purebred Arabians.
Five Purebred Arabian contests have been awarded international Listed class for the first time this season, with the JCSA Cup (25 November) and one new, yet to be named, Listed race (18 November), while in 2024, the Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Sword (13 January), The Sprint Championship (8 March) and the King Abdulaziz Racecourse Championship (9 March) will all be run as Listed events.
There will also be three other new Cup races for Thoroughbreds added to the Riyadh calendar, with the Imam Mohammed Bin Saud Cup, worth $240,000, a notable addition to the Kings’ Cups Festival on 13 January 2024, with the other new Cup races being the $80,000 Prince Saad Bin Abdulrahman Bin Faisal Cup (19 January 2024) and the $80,000 Prince Fahad Bin Jalooey Cup (10 February).
Prize money across the Riyadh season, not including The Saudi Cup meeting, will increase by $1.5m to $21.9m.
HRH Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Alfaisal, Chairman of the JCSA said: “This year’s upgrade in races and increases in prize money across both the Riyadh season and the Saudi Cup bear testament to the continued commitment of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia to the development of racing both within The Kingdom and internationally.
“As the JCSA continues to develop its capabilities and capacity to service a growing racing industry, our positive contribution at a regional and wider international level remains a key priority for us, as is our continued forward momentum in all development areas.
“This can be seen not only in the evolution and strengthening of our racing programme year-on-year, but also in the implementation of infrastructure improvements at King Abdulaziz Racecourse which further enhance the movement, environment and hosting of both people and horses.
“We look forward to welcoming racegoers to a new and exciting Riyadh racing season as we build towards our fifth annual Saudi Cup.”