Frankie Dettori’s first ride of 2022 will carry extra significance, as he competes in the inaugural Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah Cup at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Saturday 8 January, run in honour of the great owner-breeder who died almost 12 months ago.
Dettori, well-known for his partnership with the Abdullah-owned superstar mare Enable, will ride Recovery Run, formerly trained by Andrew Balding, in Saturday’s 2100m contest run on turf, which carries a pot of SAR 1m (approx. $266,000).
The meeting marks the second use of the turf track at King Abdulaziz this season as preparations continue for next month’s Saudi Cup meeting on 25 and 26 February and is also the first of six races open to Saudi’s GCC neighbours. Dettori’s mount, Recovery Run, is representing Bahrain-based trainer Allan Smith, who saddles two in the field.
The final race open to GCC countries is The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Cup (Domestic Group 1) on 29 January, where the winner will gain an automatic entry into the Group 1 Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable horse race.
Dettori, said: “Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah did amazing things for the sport of horse racing and it’s a pleasure to ride in the race named in his honour. He will never be forgotten, and I’ll be forever grateful for all the opportunities I was given to ride for him, not least Enable who gave us all such incredible memories.
“I’ve ridden in Saudi for years and the racing calendar out there is very strong now. Of course, there is The Saudi Cup meeting next month, but there are more good races with top prize money throughout the winter that make it an attractive option for the European jockeys. The dirt course is top class, and the turf track is beautiful. It’s fresh every year, you really can’t fault it.
“The Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah Cup on Saturday looks an interesting race, with plenty of familiar names in there like My Frankel and Fabilis. I remember I rode Crossed Baton to win the Derby Trial at Epsom a few years back and he only left John’s [Gosden] last year, so he’s interesting too. As for my horse, Recovery Run, he won his last start by 21 lengths, so I’d like to think he’s got a good chance!”
Salem Binmahfooz, Director of Racing at the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said: “It is fitting for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia to honour the memory of Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. This race is our contribution to continuing the tremendous global legacy left by Prince Khalid and it was considered highly appropriate by both his family and the JCSA that it should be held on our turf track and over the 2,100m distance at which some of his most famous horses excelled.
“We were very pleased to work with the family of Prince Khalid in staging this race and welcome all who were moved by the many unforgettable on course moments that Prince Khalid’s racing operation has contributed to this sport over the years.”
De Sousa set for Saudi winter
Silvestre de Sousa has not only bagged himself a ride in Saturday’s big race but is set to ride in Saudi throughout the winter having re-established an association with the country’s leading owner, Prince Faisal.
On Saturday, the UK-based Brazilian will get the leg up on Fabilis, a 95-rated three-time winner for Ralph Beckett when racing in the famous pink and green silks of Abdullah’s Juddmonte operation.
De Sousa said: “I’m flying out to Saudi on Thursday where I will mainly be riding for Prince Faisal Bin Khaled Bin Abdulaziz and his family over the next few months. It’s a real honour to have been asked and I am looking forward to spending time out there. The racing is good quality and the people are so welcoming.”