When Maximum Security dashed past the winning line to land the $20 million Saudi Cup last night, his victory was the culmination of months of hard work behind the scenes at the King Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh. Tom Ryan, Saudi Jockey Club’s director of strategy and international racing explains here how all the effort to bring the race to fruition has paid off.
Ryan said: “It’s been fantastic. I’ve had nothing but positive texts and messages for the past 24 hours. The locals couldn’t believe what we’ve achieved to this sort of standard, and the international guests came in with one perception and left with a very different one.
“I hope history will be kind to us in terms of the effort we’ve made over the last few months. We’ve done something here in six months that should have taken 18. To see Prince Bandar so grateful and to have acknowledged the effort that has been made, has been really good. I think only in the coming weeks and months will what we’ve done really sink in.”
He said: “It has been an absolutely fabulous project to have been involved in. We pieced together a team which had to be ready to go in year-one – people who have been there and done it, people who could deliver at the level we required and knew exactly what needed to be done, because we had such a short period of time to work with.
“What really pleased me from an internal outlook is that we brought people from all different parts of the world, put them into a team that was literally new, pushed them exceedingly hard and they’ve just gelled. There wasn’t one cross word, we’ve all worked 16 or 17 hours a day. The way the weekend worked out was great. Friday was a nice dry run for Saturday and we managed to iron out any little behind-the-scenes operational issues and I thought Saudi Cup Day went fantastically well.”
Ryan said the two racetracks had performed excellently with the turf track riding good and the highly praised dirt track also performing superbly. He said the Saudi Cup event couldn’t have worked out much better from a racing point of view. “There was some local success for Bahrain, a Saudi winner, which was huge on the night, the Japanese and the Europeans had winners and then the best dirt horse in training at the moment – Maximum Security – won the feature. Also, on Kingdom Day you had a female jockey winning a race in Saudi Arabia for the first time, which was fantastic.”
Gearing up for next year
Ryan said that preparation for the next Saudi Cup has already started and over the next couple of weeks there will be a series of debriefs. He said: “We’ll have a look at the race programme and see if we’re happy with it. We originally set out last July/August to construct a programme that didn’t in any way take away from Meydan – their Super Saturday and their carnival programme. I think in the most part we achieved that. I think you’ll see that this fixture will only strengthen the Dubai World Cup and give it an extra shot in the arm.”
IVM on track
International Venue Management (IVM) was brought in by Ryan to help with the organisation of the Saudi Cup. The company has worked across a range of disciplines from grass roots up, including operations, sponsorship, marketing, ticketing and security. Ryan added: “The experience of working with IVM has been really good. The ability of IVM to bring in all the various disciplines across a broad range of areas has been exceptionally good. They have committed to this event big style. They committed to getting it achieved and being judged on the results. The approach has been very honest and they have some serious people.”