RIYADH: Top UK trainer Karl Burke is planning a two-pronged raid on the glittering Saudi Cup next year.
Based in Yorkshire, Burke is preparing both Holloway Boy and Al-Qareem for the world’s most valuable race meeting on Saturday Feb. 25.
Holloway Boy is being aimed at the $1.5 million Group 3 Saudi Derby, while Al-Qareem has the $2.5 million Group 3 Red Sea Turf Handicap as his target.
Both races will take place on the same evening as the $20 million Group 1 Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race, at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh.
Classic hopeful Holloway Boy became the first horse for 26 years to win at Royal Ascot on his debut when landing the Chesham Stakes at British Flat racing’s most prestigious meeting in June.
Although he failed to add to that victory in four races later in the season, he finished in the first three in all of them, including when third in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster in October.
Burke is plotting a path to the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May with the son of Ulysses and he believes the timing of the Group 3 Saudi Derby, run over 1,600 meters on the dirt track, perfectly fits into his plans.
“It was always in my mind to give him a prep run before the 2000 Guineas. If we go out to the Saudi Derby, it still gives us the guts of two months into the Guineas,” he said.
“Timewise, it’s ideal and the prize money is huge. As long as he’s fit and well at the end of January, I would imagine that’s where we’ll go.
“He’s a horse with a lot of ability. He showed that again in the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster when he probably should have been second. The winner, Auguste Rodin, is obviously a very useful horse,” he added.
The dirt surface is one unknown for Holloway Boy but Burke is confident it will not be a problem. He believes he has the right action for dirt, and he was impressed when he saw King Abdulaziz Racecourse firsthand in February at this year’s Saudi Cup.
“I went out for the big meeting earlier this year — some of my owners invited me out there. I was very impressed with everything.
“The jockeys reported the dirt track was very horse friendly compared to some others. The kickback wasn’t as severe, so it helped put it in our minds to give Holloway Boy a chance around there.
“I wouldn’t be keen to run him on ‘normal’ dirt but, from what I saw myself and listening to the jockeys, it’s a very kind surface in Saudi.
“Mishriff obviously went out there and won the Saudi Cup in 2021, so it’s proven to be friendly to the European horses so to speak.”
In a dual assault on racing’s most valuable meeting, Burke is preparing smart staying prospect Al-Qareem to join Holloway Boy in Saudi Arabia.
He progressed from handicaps to land a French Group 2 over 3,000 meters at Longchamp in October, having finished fourth behind subsequent St. Leger winner Eldar Eldarov in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
He has the Group 3 Red Sea Turf Handicap as his Saudi target. With $2.5 million in prize money on offer, Burke sees it as an opportunity not to be missed. “It’s huge money and a horse like Al-Qareem would go there with a chance. If he couldn’t win, he’d have a chance of picking up some big place money.
“He’s come back in and he’s cantering away steady at the moment. We’ll pick his work up now to Christmas and he’ll work through January. If he’s in good shape at the end of January, we’ll aim him at the Red Sea.
“That’s the plan in our heads at the moment but there is a lot of training to go into him over the next six weeks. When we get to the end of January, we’ll make a firm decision. I’m very pleased with him at the moment.
“We’d hope he could develop into a Cup horse next season. He’s shown a good level of form and he’s only a three-year-old. He’s only a baby really.
“He’s a big-framed horse, so he can strengthen and step up again next year. He’s obviously got to prove it yet but that’s the type of horse we’re hoping we can turn him into.”
This will be the fourth year of the Saudi Cup meeting and Burke is keen to be involved in the fixture. “With the huge prize money on offer, it’s going to make every racing jurisdiction around the world take notice,” he said. “The Japanese were unbelievably strong there last year and I’m sure they will be again this time. You’d be mad not to take notice of the Saudi Cup meeting.”
Riyadh: Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the combined Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr teams against French Paris Saint-Germain on Jan. 19 during the anticipated Riyadh Season Cup.
The Saudi squad playing against the French team from the Al-Nassr club includes Amin Bukhari, Abdulelah Al-Amri, Ali Lajami, Abdullah Madu, Sultan Al-Ghannam, Luiz Gustavo, Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Sami Al-Naji, Talisca, Pity Martínez and Ronaldo.
As for the Al-Hilal side, the list of players includes Mohammed Al-Owais, Saud Abdulhamid, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Jang Hyun-soo, Khalifah Al-Dawsari, Abdullah Otayf, Mohammed Kanno, André Carrillo, Matheus Pereira, Salem Al-Dawsari and Moussa Marega.
The Saudi Riyadh Season select team will be led by Argentinian coach Marcelo Gallardo in an exhibition match against French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
RIYADH: Frankie Dettori will compete in the Saudi Cup International Jockeys Challenge at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on February 24.
The Italian will make his 11th seasonal appearance in Saudi Arabia, where he has ridden six winners from 72 rides, on what promises to be his final year in the saddle.
Asked what it meant to be invited to ride in the IJC, which is held on the Friday of Saudi Cup weekend, Dettori said: “In my final year as a jockey I want to go to as many places as possible and being able to compete in the IJC at The Saudi Cup is a huge event that I’m delighted to be a part of.
“This will be one of my final chances to share a weighing room with some of the world’s greatest jockeys, and I look forward to seeing who else I’m going to come up against. Joao Moreira has been confirmed, as has last year’s winner Caitlin Jones, so the competition already looks pretty fierce!”
“I know both the dirt and the turf tracks well having ridden in Riyadh quite a lot over the years, and it’s a place I enjoy riding at as it’s very fair and the surfaces are always in great condition. It’s also a great warm-up event for the big Group races on the Saturday, and of course The Saudi Cup itself, which I’d love to win.”
Australian rider Caitlin Jones won last year’s IJC and has been invited back to defend her title.
Speaking about her experience of riding in and winning the IJC in 2022, Jones said: “It’s hard to believe it’s nearly been a year since I rode in the International Jockeys Challenge. It was extra special to ride alongside Glen Boss during his last hurrah and have him standing on the podium with me. That’s a memory I will never forget.
“I hadn’t had much experience on a dirt track, but it was a great surface to race on. You could travel wherever you were and if you were good enough you could win from anywhere. There wasn’t a lot of kickback, it’s an elite surface on every level. They’ve done a wonderful job with it.
“I couldn’t be happier to have been asked to come back and try to retain my title – it would be pretty cheeky if I managed it, wouldn’t it?! I’ll be going out there with every intention of taking it out a second time, but you need a lot of luck with the horses you get drawn. I can’t wait to be back competing in Saudi Arabia again.”
Four-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey, Joao Moreira, is another of the high-profile names to be confirmed to ride in the four-race challenge.
The Brazilian is back in his native land after leaving Hong Kong last year but is planning to ride more internationally in the coming months.
Moreira said: “I’m excited and looking forward to riding in the International Jockeys Challenge. This is a great opportunity for me to ride in a place I’ve never been before, and I wouldn’t miss a chance to ride at a different racecourse and to get that stamp on my CV.
“I’ve heard the infrastructure is good over there and I’ve no doubt that the event they are going to put on will be top-class. Whoever is there, I’m sure they are going to see some great riders doing their best and putting on a very good show.
“Frankie’s just a brilliant rider, he’s the best. Getting the chance to ride with him once again is fantastic.”
The second of the seven female riders to be confirmed is Canadian Chantal Sutherland, who has ridden over 1,200 winners, including three Grade 1s to date, and is set to take her first rides in Saudi Arabia.
Sutherland said: “It’s a huge opportunity which I’m super excited about. I’ve never been to Saudi but it’s always been on the bucket list as I love these jockey challenges. I’ve had a really good year in Florida so far and I can’t wait to head over.
“To ride against the likes of Frankie [Dettori] and Caitlin Jones is a real honor. I know Frankie well and have ridden against him plenty of times — he’s a lot of fun and the crowds always love him. Anyone of us could win it, but I’m going to give it my all – I’d love to come out on top. I was obviously very lucky to come second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a few years ago, but if I could win the IJC it would top that.
“Racing in Saudi is getting bigger and bigger and everyone I’ve spoken to has been really positive about it. The prize money is absolutely amazing, and I’m really excited to be part of it all.”
The International Jockeys Challenge features four handicap races, each run for $400,000, with a further $100,000 prize fund for the challenge itself.
The jockeys are made up of seven international female riders, five international men and two local men with the jockeys receiving 15 percent of prize money won in each of the four races.
All races will consist of 14 runners and five reserves, with all 14 jockeys riding in each race.
Two races will be staged on dirt and two on turf, with the distances ranging from 1200m to 2100m.
RIYADH: Riyadh hosted on Sunday the fourth executive office meeting of UNESCO’s Conference of Parties to the International Convention against Doping in Sport, Saudi Press Agency reported.
Meanwhile, the fifth meeting of the approval committee of the UNESCO Fund for the Elimination of Doping in Sport will take place in the capital on Tuesday.
Several UNESCO officials, as well as representatives from the International Olympic Committee, Interpol, the EU and the African Union, are attending the two meetings.
The convention supports the international harmonization of anti-doping legislation, guidelines, regulations and rules to provide a fair playing environment for all athletes. It is the second most ratified UNESCO treaty, with 191 states parties.
The fund assists states parties to the convention to develop and implement anti-doping projects.
MADRID: Barcelona won the Spanish Super Cup for the first time since the competition was revamped and moved to Saudi Arabia with a 3-1 victory over Real Madrid on Sunday.
Robert Lewandowski, Gavi and Pedri scored a goal each at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh to give Barcelona its first Super Cup trophy since 2018 — and its 14th overall — and the first since the tournament began being played in a Final Four format in 2020 in a lucrative deal for the Spanish soccer federation.
It was also Barcelona’s first title since former player Xavi took over as the team’s coach in 2021, and since Lionel Messi left for Paris Saint-Germain.
Gavi opened the scoring in the 33rd minute from close range after a pass by Lewandowski, who doubled the lead after an assist by Gavi in a breakaway just before the end of the first half. Gavi also set up Pedri’s close-range goal in another breakaway in the 69th.
Karim Benzema scored for Madrid late in stoppage time.
Madrid was trying to win its second consecutive Super Cup title in Saudi Arabia, and equal Barcelona’s record of 13 Super Cup trophies.
Madrid eliminated Barcelona in last season’s semifinals, but the Spanish powerhouses had never met in the final of the revamped competition.
Both teams needed penalty shootouts to edge their opponents in the semifinals. Madrid beat Valencia and Barcelona defeated Real Betis.
Barcelona had not lifted a trophy since the 2021 Copa del Rey under former coach Ronald Koeman. That was Messi’s 35th and final title with Barcelona before leaving amid the club’s financial struggles.
Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 at home in the first “clásico” of the season at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the Spanish league in October.
The Super Cup used to be played between the Spanish league champion and the Copa del Rey winner. Now the runners-up in both competitions also participate. Madrid played as the league champion and Barcelona as the league runner-up. Betis won the Copa title over Valencia last season.
The current contract to play the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia runs through the 2024-25 season.
ATLÉTICO HELD IN LEAGUE
Atlético Madrid was held to a 1-1 draw at Almería in the Spanish league, staying in fourth place and tied on points with fifth-place Villarreal and sixth-place Real Betis.
Ángel Correa put Atlético ahead in the 18th but El Bilal Touré equalized for the hosts in the 37th. Atlético defender Sergio Reguilón entered the match as a substitute in the 67th but was sent off with consecutive yellow cards in the 89th.
Atlético was coming off a 1-0 home loss to leader Barcelona, which is 13 points ahead of Atlético.
Almería, winless in three straight league games, stayed in 13th place.
Earlier Sunday, Espanyol moved further from the relegation zone with a 2-1 win at Getafe, with Joselu scoring the opening goal for the hosts with a shot from near the halfway line as the Getafe goalkeeper got caught out of position.
Defending league champion Madrid is in second place and Real Sociedad, which beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 in the Basque Country derby on Saturday, is third.
Riyadh: The Vice President of the Saudi Fencing Federation, Mohammed Buali, crowned the winners of the Kingdom’s Championship (golden round) at under 11s on Saturday.
The tournament was held at the Saudi Fencing Federation Hall in Prince Saud bin Jalawi Sports City, Al Khobar.
Haider Al-Hashem won the gold medal in the foil category, while Hamza Salem came second, and both Reda Al-Ruwaiei and Abbas Al-Tarouti shared third.
In the epee competition, Amin Al-Saho claimed the gold medal, with Ahmed Al-Habib taking second, and Ali Al-Hujairi and Muhammad Al-Mukhtar third.
Ali Al-Omani took first place in the saber category, with Thamer Al-Bashir second, and Jawad Al-Sada and Mohammed Al-Abbas third.