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Top women jockeys to compete in world’s richest race meeting in Saudi Arabia

A raft of the world’s elite jockeys and horses will descend on King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh this weekend for the 2024 Saudi Cup. The fifth edition of the event begins on Friday with the International Jockeys’ Challenge and concludes on Saturday with the highly anticipated Saudi Cup race itself.

The international challenge (IJC) is a four-race competition featuring 14 high-calibre jockeys – seven men and seven women – from all around the world. Among them are three-time Melbourne Cup champion Damien Oliver, America’s Katie Davies and reigning IJC champion Luis Saez, and New Zealand’s Lisa Allpress, the first woman to win a flat race in Saudi Arabia when she competed in 2020.

Maryline Eon rides from France while Britain’s representative is 21-year-old Saffie Osborne, the daughter of former National Hunt jockey Jamie Osborne, who has 160 wins already on her record.

British jockey Saffie Osborne pictured at Newmarket Racecourse in September (Getty Images)
British jockey Saffie Osborne pictured at Newmarket Racecourse in September (Getty Images)

The world’s richest horse meet has just got even richer, with the overall prize pool almost doubled to $37.5m (£28m) this year. The showpiece event in the Saudi Cup 2024 is an 1,800m race around the oval shaped track, and will be contested by up to 14 horses competing for a winner’s cheque of $10m (£8m) – half of the race’s total prize pot.

Lisa Allpress will feature at the Saudi Cup (Getty Images)
Lisa Allpress will feature at the Saudi Cup (Getty Images)

Horses from America and Japan fill the provisional start list. The slight favourite at the time of writing is White Abarrio, the grey colt who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic over a similar distance of 1 1/4 miles. He is trained by the controversial Rick Dutrow, who spent 10 years out of the sport for a string of violations, but is now back in the winners’ circle aiming to make up for lost time.

White Abarrio faces some stiff competition, however, notably from National Treasure, the Kentucky-based thoroughbred who won the prestigious 2023 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, Maryland – one third of the American Triple Crown. Trainer Bob Baffert has a glistening CV to call upon, but has not yet trained a winner in the Saudi Cup.

Bob Baffert celebrates after his horse National Treasure won the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes (Getty Images)
Bob Baffert celebrates after his horse National Treasure won the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes (Getty Images)

Other contenders include Japanese runners Derma Sotogake and Lemon Pop, the Brad H Cox-trained Saudi Crown, and the Kentucky-bred Senor Buscador.

Saudi Cup – provisional field

horse, trainer, nation

1Carmel Road (USA)Abdullah AlbadahSaudi Arabia

2Crown Pride (JPN)Koichi ShintaniJapan

3Defunded (USA)Abdulaziz K MishrefSaudi Arabia

4Derma Sotogake (JPN)Hidetaka OtonashiJapan

5Hoist the Gold (USA)Dallas StewartUnited States

6Lemon Pop (USA)Hiroyasu TanakaJapan

7Meisho Hario (JPN)Inao OkadaJapan

8National Treasure (USA)Bob BaffertUnited States

9 Power In Numbers (USA)Ahmed MohamoudSaudi Arabia

10 Saudi Crown (USA)Brad CoxUnited States

11 Senor Buscador (USA)Todd FincherUnited States

12Ushba Tesoro (JPN)Noburu TakagiJapan

13White Abarrio (USA)Richard DutrowUnited States