INTERVIEW: Female Saudi driver feels right at home at Diriyah E-Prix

RIYADH: Hollie Doyle made history on Saturday by becoming the first female jockey to win a race on Saudi Cup day when she stormed to victory in the $1 million Neom Turf Cup, the first race of the day.

At a rainswept King Abdulaziz Racecourse, Doyle’s victory on True Self got the action at the $30.5 million meeting off to a memorable start and there were also victories for the Dubai-owned Space Blues and Gifts of Gold of Godolphin.

At the International Jockeys Challenge on Friday, the early cloudy conditions had made way for sunshine by the time of the first of the afternoon races, but there would be no such respite on the day of the world’s richest horse race.

The conditions however did not seem to affect the brilliant Doyle, who came from behind with 100 meters left to win dramatically, with Channel Maker and Emirates Knight finishing in second and third respectively.

“The track’s beautiful, the dirt track rides great as does the turf,” Doyle said. “It’s obviously a huge privilege to be on the world stage with plenty of rides on a day like today. As a jockey, it’s what  I strive to do. I feel very lucky to be where I am today.

Doyle, who finished third in the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, also highlighted the importance of tasing her profile on the international stage.

“It’s really important, I don’t just want to be (just) a jockey, I want to be the best that I can be so getting leg up on these international trips is amazing,” she added.

READ MORE: Mishriff wins the 2021 Saudi Cup

In the second race of the day, the $1 million stc 1351 Turf Sprint, Godolphin’s Space Blues claimed the $600,000 top prize, with Al-Adiyat racing-owned Dark Power coming in second and Prince Faisal Bin Khaled Urban Icon in third.

“Absolutely delighted with that. We knew he was a class horse coming into the race and he had a lovely draw,” said winning trainer Charlie Appleby. “I could see (the ground) was a bit loose for him and our concern was that he might just spin a bit on it, but he’s come back on the bridle turning in like a class horse and put the race to bed at the right time. He travels for fun, watching the race there. I’ll be interested to see what William has to say because obviously Dubai World Cup night has to be taken into consideration.”

Doyle was back riding Red Verdon at the highly-anticipated Red Sea Turf Handicap, but a surprise victory went to Godolphin’s Gifts of Gold, ridden by Pat Cosgrove, with Spanish Mission and Secret Advisor — also owned by Godolphin — finishing second and third.

Gifts of Gold’s trainer Saeed Bin Suroor was delighted with the win and revealed that preparation for the race had been challenging for his horse.

“He’s big strong horse, and it wasn’t easy for him to lose some weight, it took him some time,” Bin Suroor said. “But he ran well. In the race today, I said if we can keep him second, it will be good for him. It suits him really well and the last two furlongs, I thought he had a chance and he finished really well.”

The trainer also highlighted a special relationship with Cosgrove.

“He’s good jockey, he’s done a good job for us in Australia, and in England and also in Germany, we’re happy,” Bin Suroor added.

On the Gifts of Gold he said: “We’ll take him back to Dubai and maybe run him in the Gold Cup, two miles, give him a chance.”

“I’m sure he will lose some weight.”

The fourth race of the day, – and first on dirt – the $1 million Jockey Club Local Handicap over 1,800, was won by Albathaly – owned by Prince Faisal Bin Khaled and ridden by Walter Ramos – ran away with the top prize ahead of Motakay’yef and Alaf’kham.

The richest Arabian race in the world, the $2 million Obaiya Arabian Classic over 2,000m (dirt), was next and it was won by an increasingly familiar face over the Saudi Cup weekend.

Adel Alfouraidi had finished second overall in the International Jockeys Challenge on Friday, and repeated his heroics by storming to victory on Mubasher Alkhalediah, with Mutwakel Alkhalediah coming in second, with Hajres in third.

“I thank god for this win, I cannot describe this feeling,” Alfouraidi said. “The race started very fast, but I took my time with this horse because I rode him before, and slowly I picked up the pace, and in the end it worked for me and we won.”

The sixth race, $1.5 million Al Rajhi Bank Saudi derby saw the first Japanese win of the night when Pink Kamehameha, ridden by Keita Tosaki, came home ahead of Cowan and New Treasure, to claim the $900,000 top prize.

After seeing his horse win for the second year running at the Saudi Cup, trainer Hideyuki Mori said that he wasn’t too confident coming into the race but the rainy conditions proved beneficial for Pink Kamehameha.

The penultimate race, The Riyadh Dirt Sprint sponsored by Saudi Arabian Airlines, run over 1,200m and worth $1.5 million, brought as second successive Japanese win, this time Copano Kicking, owned by Sachiaki Kobayashi.

Second place went to Matera Sky, owned by Tsuyoshi Ono – also of Japan – while Prince Faisal Bin Khaled’s Faz Zae.

“It’s huge, this is a real international meeting,” said winning jockey William Buick. “You see horses and people from all over the world and they have great racing, at great racecourse and I think it’s one of the great nights of the year.”

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