Horses have been a central part of Saudi Arabia’s history, traditions, and culture. In fact, the Kingdom is famed for its strong desert-bred Arabians, one of the world’s oldest breeds of horses, from which racing thoroughbreds are descended. In line with nurturing a key part of its heritage, the Kingdom has announced this month the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship, with prizes totaling more than $17 million.
This new horseracing championship is set to rival world-renowned competitions in size such as the Kentucky Derby, and in prize money when compared to events such as the 2018 Pegasus World Cup Invitational in Florida, USA, which had a $16-million purse.
What is being described as one of the sport's richest events is set to attract visitors from across the globe, from countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, the government's General Sports Authority explained.
This latest announcement comes as part of Vison 2030, the Kingdom’s drive towards diversifying its oil-dependent economy and creating a more modern, dynamic, and tourism-based society.
This competition may signal a new phase in Saudi Arabia’s history in which its prized Arabian breeds will take center stage, but this is not the first time its horses have competed. According to The National, the horses of prominent Saudi figures have always participated in some of the world’s biggest racing spectacles, from Royal Ascot to Longchamp and Melbourne.
This competition joins a list of others that Saudi Arabia has created to highlight and celebrate its rich and proud heritage, one that is closely tied to nature. This year saw the second edition of the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, in which almost 30,000 camels competed for a combined $57 million in prize money, with prizes as high as $5.2 million for winners in certain categories.