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Winner Shane Foley celebrates after winning the challenge
On the evening before the second running of the $20 million Saudi Cup, was the second edition of the $1.6 million stc International Jockeys Challenge. 14 riders from around the world (7 males and 7 females) were invited to compete, and were randomly assigned mounts in 4 races on the card, all run under handicap weights around 1 turn of the dirt track (distances from 6 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles) with $400,000 purses, the first 3 for older horses but the 4th and final leg restricted to 3-year-olds. Points were awarded based on the jockey's placing in each race, using a 15-10-7-5-3 system, with the leader after the 4 races declared the winner of the trophy and $30,000. Conditions were ideal during the races, with cloudy skies, temperatures in the 60's, and the main track fast.
Jockey Shane Foley won the second race of the competition aboard Albayraq Stable owned Emblem Star.
Jockey Shane Foley won the third race of the competition aboard Motawariyah.
"We have all-weather racing back home, but it's nothing like the dirt (track) is here. I've ridden in Japan for a couple of winters and ridden in America and it's nice, it's different (to ride on dirt). It was such a privilege even to be invited here but to be competing and winning - it's the sort of thing you strive for," said the delighted Irishman. "It's a fantastic racetrack and it's brilliant to be here."
Local jockey Adel Alfouraidi on Zhabi Alhammad, a filly owned by Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdul Aziz, won the fourth leg of the challenge.
US jockey Mike Smith won the opening leg on Mortajeh.
The US Hall of Fame jockey Smith, known as 'Big Money Mike' took an early lead in the challenge when he snatched the first leg, sponsored by stc dare, on Mortajeh, having replaced John Velazquez. Mike Smith finished third with 19 points. Smith said: "Lessons learned (after being fined and suspended for excessive whip use last year). You learn from big things like that and I learnt a big lesson and I humbled myself a whole lot and then I am ready for tomorrow. I'm very happy to be back and I'm happy to be back with a horse that has an abundance of talent."
The jockeys who participated in the challenge pose for a group shot before the first race. From right to left: Cristian Demuro, Shane Foley, Malin Holmberg, Jessica Marcialis, Mike Smith, Jorge Ricardo, Sibylle Vogt, Maria Asconiga, Nieves Garcia, Nanako Fujita, William Buick, Hollie Doyle, and Wigberto Ramos
Japan's Nanako Fujita and Sweden's Malin Holmberg tied for fourth with 12 points, and Jessica Marcalis took sixth for Italy with a tally of 11 points. Due to issues related to COVID restrictions, John Velazquez was not permitted to travel to Riyadh and was replaced by Mike Smith in the competition.
Adel Alfouraidi 2nd, Mike Smith 3rd, and Shane Foley 1st, with their trophies.
Fourth place finisher Fujita said, "It was a lot of fun. I'm disappointed I didn't win but I hope to be back so I can get revenge." Sixth place finisher Jessica Marcialis added, "It was amazing. The first race was different, it's a style that suits the American jockeys not the Europeans, but in the second race I thought 'I understand'. I didn't know where I was in the competition but I finished with a smile."
Wigberto 'Wiggy' Ramos wins the Saudi International Handicap sponsored by Al Rajhi Bank aboard Petrus
Left: Petrus heads to the winner's circle. Winning jockey "Wiggy" Ramos said, "I'm very happy to get this win. I tried to be close on my horse but he didn't want to be close so I stayed back and waited for him to give me the sign. At the 800 (metres) I started to look for a bit of a run but I didn't have the room, then when he was out in the clear he was very strong. This kind of race is fantastic and brings more quality horses to race in Saudi Arabia."
Right: The trophy presentation for the International Handicap.
Left: Petrus returns after the race. Ramos added, "Winning always feels good but on a day like today it is even better. Last year I broke my wrist and I couldn 't ride on this day so this year I have made it and so far, so good."
Right: The horses break from the gate for the International Handicap.
Left: Second place finisher Desert Lion in the walking ring before the race. Jockey Paddy Mathers said, "I had a really good trip actually. I just got stuck in a bit of a pocket before turning in so I had to get out of that. Then he picked up. He ran a cracking race. I can't ask for anything more for him. He's a lovely horse and his future seems very big now."
Right: Third place finisher Rayounpour returns after the race. Jockey Frankie Dettori said, "He stays and (2100m) is a little short for him. I had him in the box seat and kicked on early. I knew he gallops all day. The first two just had too much turn of foot for me."
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