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Saudi Women Can Now Compete in the World’s Richest Race


Dalma Malhas, Saudi Arabian equestrian

Saudi Arabian life has come leaps and bounds in the past year or so, especially when it comes to gender equality and empowering the women of the kingdom to take up driving, sport and employment. Now,  with no social barriers holding them back, it has been announced that Saudi women can now join the Saudi Cup race next year.

Proclaimed the “world’s richest race,” the sports tournament is a horse race and speaking about the forthcoming event, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Jockey Club, said in a statement to BBC Sport, "Men and women will be treated equally,” and that women are "most welcome" to take part in the race, also adding, "We are going through a transformation in the kingdom. We are learning, but we are opening up and there is a political will to go there.”

Scheduled to take place in February 2020, in the kingdom’s capital city of Riyadh, the race was previously banned from public sporting events, but this time women will have the opportunity to participate and compete in next year’s major sporting event. The Saudi Cup’s organization is being led by Al Faisal, and the royal has already enlisted a team of equestrian experts to bring momentum and high spirits to the event, including, ex-Grand National handicapper, Phil Smith, and Harry Herbert, a British racing figure, as the race’s global ambassador.

King Abdulaziz Racetrack Riyadh

The races will be held at Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz racetrack and race winners are in store for a prize of USD $20 million. Of the 14 participants, 1st place will be awarded USD $10 million, with runners up also taking home monetary winnings. The 10th place is said to be winning around USD $200,000. There will also be 5 other races taking place with prizes totaling around USD $6.8 million, and according to the organizers, one of the races, “is a 'staying handicap' over just under two miles and could attract the kind of runners that compete in the Ebor Handicap at York and Australia's Melbourne Cup."

In 2020’s edition of the Saudi Cup, 12,000 people are estimated to be attending, with ticket buyers granted visas to the kingdom upon booking online for international visitors.

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