By Nicholas Godfrey
Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race, will be run as Group 1 event for the first time in on February 26, 2022.
Like the first two runnings of the Dubai World Cup in 1996 and 1997, the $20m contest on dirt at King Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh was ineligible for G1 status in its first two seasons, when the race was won by Maximum Security and Mishriff.
However, its immediate promotion to G1 level was confirmed by the IFHA (International Federation of Horseracing Authorities) council meeting in Paris on October 4.
All five races on the Saudi Cup undercard have also been awarded G3 status, while the Bahrain International Trophy, run at Sakhir in November, also becomes a G3 event. The £500,000 event, which takes place on November 19 this year, has been won by Royal Julius and Simsir in its first two seasons.
Three more Bahraini races have also been raised to Listed level, while both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been promoted to Part II countries (from Part III) in the International Cataloguing Standards (ICS) Book by the International Grading and Race Planning Advisory Committee (IRPAC).
HRH Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, highlighted the importance of this step. “Saudi Arabia’s advancement as a racing nation from Part III on the IFHA list to Part II is a pivotal moment in our racing history and the halfway mark in our ambition to become a Part I racing jurisdiction,” he said.
“We know we could not have made this significant advancement without the support of global racing, and we hope we are able to repay this faith in us by continuing to grow our offering internationally while improving our domestic industry.
“This is also the first season that The Saudi Cup will be run as a Group 1 while the undercard races on Saudi Cup day will be run as Group 3 contests with the Obaiya Arabian Classic remaining at Listed status. This exciting news means that the Saudi Cup is Saudi Arabia’s first international Group 1 and we are very proud of this major step in our history.”