Saudi Arabia: Irish star Shane Foley emerged triumphant in the second stc International Jockeys’ Challenge with two winners as all four legs in the lucrative series at the Saudi Cup meeting went to male jockeys.
A total of 14 male and female jockeys from across the globe took part in the four-race competition on the eve of the Saudi Cup, the world’s richest raceday on Saturday at King Abdulaziz racecourse on the outskirts of Riyadh.
Classic-winning Foley, who rides for trainer Jessica Harrington in Ireland, took Friday night’s honours, with a total of 30 points for his two wins. Each race was worth $400,000.
“It’s massive to win this,” said Foley, 32. “It’s a nice break and during a quiet time for us during the winter, so it’s nice to get away and get the opportunity.
“These challenges are important for young jockeys to get noticed around the world and hopefully it might open a few doors somewhere else,” he went on.
“We have all-weather racing back home, but it’s nothing like the dirt is here. I’ve ridden in Japan for a couple of winters and ridden in America and it’s nice, it’s different.
“It’s great to win and obviously can’t do my career any harm. I have a fantastic job at home and Jessica Harrington is a great person to work for who has a fantastic team of horses, so it’s all good.”
Foley paid tribute to the late Pat Smullen, the nine-team Irish champion jockey, who died in September. “Pat was massive and travelled and won races all around the world – here, Dubai, everywhere,” said Foley.
“He would probably be here instead of me representing Ireland if he were still around. He was a fantastic man who’s left a big legacy and big boots to fill behind, so we’re all trying our best.”
After a four-length victory on Emblem Star in the second leg, Foley followed up with another wide-margin victory on Motawariyah.
“It was such a privilege even to be invited here but to be competing and winning,” he said. “It’s the sort of thing you strive for.”
Victory in the fourth and final leg went to Saudi Arabian jockey Adel Alfouraidi on Zhabi Alhammad, a filly owned by Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdul Aziz, earning the local crowd favourite the runner-up spot overall.
Alfouraidi said: “It means a lot to me. I am one of the Saudi riders and they are all going to be happy for this win, all the Saudi jockeys. She’s a good filly and she gave me a lot of help throughout the race. We were all together but I am thanking God that I was able to win it. For me, this is a dream come true.”
He finished second in the jockeys’ challenge with 25 points – as well as his win, he picked up second place and therefore 15 points in the second leg – with Mike Smith, who stood in for John Velazquez, third on 19 points.
Smith had a score to settle after forfeiting last year’s title when one of his mounts failed a subsequent dope test. He duly snatched the first leg on Mortajeh,
“They told me Mortajeh was quick and to use it to my advantage,” he explained. “I was called in to substitute at the last minute so I didn’t know much about my mounts today, but sometimes when you don’t know things, it works out better. It’s great.
He continued: “I tell you, I enjoy riding here, I really do. I know I made a few mistakes and I had to pay for them last year and rightly so, but it’s good to come back and try to redeem myself and we will see what happens.”
Japan’s Nanako Fujita and Sweden’s Malin Holmberg tied for fourth with 12 points, and Jessica Marcialis took sixth for Italy with a tally of 11 points.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Fujita. “I’m disappointed I didn’t win but I hope to be back so I can get revenge.”
Marcialis added: “It was amazing. The first race was different – it’s a style that suits the American jockeys not the Europeans, but in the second race I thought ‘I understand’. I didn’t know where I was in the competition but I finished with a smile.”
British star Hollie Doyle added: “The track rode nice, the kickback was not as bad as you’d expect it to be and it isn’t as deep as it looks, either. Obviously I didn’t have much luck tonight but it was a good experience.”
Last year’s winner, Switzerland’s Sibylle Vogt, said: “It wasn’t the same as last year but I’m really happy I could come again. I think I did get a third and a sixth but I just wasn’t as lucky as last year.”
Brazilian legend Jorge Ricardo said: “This has been a great experience. I am very impressed with the people here who are so nice. The track is spectacular. For me it is one of the best I have ridden on. I have been to many places like France, Brazil, Peru, Chile, the United States, but this is a great track.
“The people are so nice, so friendly and welcoming. I really enjoyed myself here. I am very pleased to have been here. It was very much worth coming here.”
• Visit the Saudi Cup website