Jockeys were unanimous in their praise of Kingdom Day – the first day of the $20 million Saudi Cup event in Saudi Arabia. US Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith emerged victorious in the stc International Jockeys Challenge on a day where history was made at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack. While Smith’s two success from four rounds of the competition, which featured 14 invited riders from around the globe, saw him out on his own in front, Lisa Allpress had already achieved a notable milestone in the opening leg, the $400,000 stc Dare, as she became the first female jockey to ride a winner in Saudi Arabia.
Smith, who boasts the 2018 Triple Crown among his numerous honours, was full of praise for the artificial surface at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack. He said: “I’m proud to start the time I’m here off by winning tonight in great fashion. I’ll be back, I love this place and I love that dirt course out there. It’s the best dirt course I’ve been on. It’s very kind and very good for a horse and America should really take a look at this surface. Man, it’s kind and when it feels kind it is kind. I absolutely loved it.”
Canadian jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson added: “Jockey challenges are unique, I’ve ridden in them all over the world, it’s always a pleasure to be invited. For the first time with an event like this, to have it go like this, is fantastic. To have an event like this the day before your biggest day is not easy – hands down fantastic job. The competition itself – on a surface like this against this calibre of riders and at such a wonderful facility – just adds to the atmosphere. It’s been an absolute pleasure and honour to participate and I’m really happy that I came.”
Lisa Allpress was one of seven female jockeys making their debuts in Saudi Arabia and she was delighted to be part of the event and the first woman to win a horse race in Saudi Arabia. She said: “I came here with no expectations, I just wanted to enjoy the experience, but we have been very well looked after and I want to thank everyone who has organised it. I’m just so thankful to get the invite to come here. Where I come from it’s not a crazy thing for a woman to be riding in the big races but this means a lot. I’m just happy to be here and doing my thing. I came here with an open mind and I’m extremely thankful to be asked.”
As part of an initiative to encourage youngsters to take an interest in horse racing in Saudi Arabia, International Venue Management (IVM) tasked school children with designing the winner’s rug for two races on Kingdom Day. The amazing results were there for all to see as the winning horses were paraded around the winner’s enclosure. A team of experts from IVM has been in Saudi Arabia for the past few months organising the Saudi Cup event.