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Maryline Eon wins International Jockeys Challenge

A flying start to the International Jockeys Challenge proved enough for French jockey Maryline Eon to claim top honours after British contenders Saffie Osborne and Ryan Moore failed to score.

The French jockey stole an early lead in the contest – which features seven female and seven male jockeys competing for a $100,000 purse – with a second and a first from the opening two races, and despite failing to score in the closing two contests she held on to victory with 25 points.

Osborne, who arrived in Saudi fresh from success in Dubai and Qatar, was unable to land a winner on her debut in the country but placed twice to finish on 11 points, while Ryan Moore achieved a best result of third in the closing 1m2½f handicap on the fast-finishing Hesslewood.

"It's very emotional to win this," said Eon. "These championships always come with a lot of adrenaline and I knew I had two very good rides in the first two races, so when they come off it's a great feeling – winning against the world's best jockeys is quite special.

"I never imagined this would happen and I have to thank the country for making such an effort to bring women here. There's a lot of help now for women in racing that wasn't there when I started. Women in France get a weight allowance now, which helps so much, and things have changed a lot in recent years."

Eon became the first female jockey to ride in the French Oaks when eighth on Yellow Storm in 2017. A month later, she became the inaugural winner of the Lady Jockeys' Thoroughbred World Championships in Sweden and has ridden more than 450 winners, claiming her first Group 1 success in November on the Arabian colt Kamaro D'Huez.

She sealed a $30,000 prize by ending the international challenge seven points clear of local champion Camillo Ospina, who was tied with Brazilian rider Victoria Mota but took the runner-up spot on account of his success in the opening mile handicap on Altawhidi.

Rachel Venniker drives Cliffs Of Fury to victory, photo Liesl King

Last year's winner Luis Saez was also successful in the third leg on Pagan before Rachel Venniker flew down the home straight on Cliffs Of Fury to seal victory in the final race.

"It sends a message to aspiring jockeys to just keep trying," said Venniker, who is South Africa's only active female jockey. "It was a bit of a rough time for me until the last but if you have determination, keep going, you can be successful."

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