Crowning the World’s Richest Race: The Remarkable Saga of the Saudi Cup

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Horse racing is one of the most prestigious sports across the world, with huge races being run in all four corners. While domestic Classics such as the Kentucky Derby and Epsom Derby remain the most important for connections, the money that has been invested in the sport further afield means that there are more opportunities than ever before for trainers and owners to target huge purses throughout the winter months.

These races have become exceptionally popular among gamblers that like make bets on the leading betting apps for Arabic players, with the Dubai World Cup and Saudi Cup being among the two most-watched. The latter is the richest horse race ever held, with an eye-watering $20 million being on offer for the runners involved. You can find out more about the world famous race here.

Race Information

The Saudi Cup is the highlight race on the Saudi Cup Night, where connections from around the world tend to target horses to win lucrative purses. However, the Saudi Cup is the big race that is targeted on the night of action, with a staggering $20 million being up for grabs. That purse means that it is the most lucrative horse race staged anywhere in the world.

Runners are invited to take part in the Saudi Cup, but there are special ‘Win and You’re In’ contests throughout the season. The most prestigious of these is the Pegasus World Cup, which is staged four weeks before the Saudi Cup at Gulfstream Park. As well as the U.S. qualifier, Japanese raiders can also earn their berth in the race by winning the Champions Cup.

Race Day Experience

Despite boasting a massive purse for connections to target, it wasn’t officially graded as a top level contest by the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities’ until February 2022.

Since its inception, the race has been proud to showcase everything that is wonderful about the hosting city of Riyadh, with visitors welcomed to dress in heritage costumes that are regularly seen across Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, all visitors will also be able to taste traditional meals from the area, and live musical concerts before and after the racing will enable visitors to learn something new about the state.

Early Controversy

The early history of the Saudi Cup was marred in controversy, as the first edition is one that made international headlines. Maximum Security was the winner of the first race, with Luis Saez delivering an excellent ride. However, it was revealed two months later by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia that it was withholding the prize money due to an ongoing investigation.

The decision was down to the indictment of trainer Jason Servis in the United States. It wasn’t until early 2024 that the Jockey Club recommended disqualifying Maximum Security following the conviction of Servis in the U.S.  Servis pleaded guilty to two charges of adulteration and misbranding. Following the decision made by the Jockey Club, the case was referred to the Stewards’ Committee where a final judgement will be made in due course.

Recent Winners

Since the controversial first edition of the race, there have been some epic renewals of the Saudi Cup. Mishriff defied all expectations to win the 2021 edition for John Gosden after transferring his excellent turf form onto the dirt in the Middle East. There was a welcome first home success in the race in 2022, as Emblem Road triumphed for Prince Bin Salman Abdulaziz.

Japanese trainers have been targeting huge races across the world in recent years, and there was a welcome first win in the race for the nation in 2023, as Panthalassa beat off fierce competition to claim victory. However, the most star-studded renewal of the race came in 2024, as Senor Buscador clocked a speed record time to hold off Ushba Tesoro and Saudi Crown to claim victory for trainer Todd Fincher.


While the Saudi Cup is unlikely to reach the prestige levels of some of the world’s most famous races, it is able to attract excellent fields of stars for the race on an annual basis. The massive purse available makes it an unmissable event for fans of the sport, and it is a huge betting occasion in countries where horse racing betting is popular in this modern day.

As well as boasting the lucrative Grade 1, the night of action in Riyadh is enjoyable for fans of the sport, with the G2 Neom Turf Cup, G2 Turf Sprint, and G3 Red Sea Turf Handicap all attracting star-studded fields.


About Gary Hutchinson 663 Articles

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