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Prize-money up for Saudi Cup card as officials wait on probe into first winner

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will increase prize-money for its two-day Saudi Cup meeting, beginning in Riyadh on February 19.

Prince Bandar bin Khalid al Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, announced that $30.5 million would be offered across the Saudi Cup card, up from $29.2m, with the feature contest still run for $20m.

The JCSA is withholding prize-money from connections of the first Saudi Cup winner, Maximum Security, whose former trainer Jason Servis is among 27 people facing federal charges in the US as part of an alleged widespread doping scheme.

The JCSA's investigation into the allegations has been hampered by the fact it is not a party to legal proceedings in the US but Faisal is confident a resolution can be found in the coming weeks.

"This is a very unusual situation and not something any of us could have predicted," he said. "On a personal level, I'm quite emotional about this as I was rooting for Maximum Security after what happened to him in the Kentucky Derby [when he was demoted].

"We're at the mercy of what's happening in the US. We understand they're addressing this according to their own schedule and the coronavirus has not helped them in moving proceedings along.

"I can assure everyone there will be a resolution. The difficulty we're having is getting a feel of when that will be from halfway across the world but somebody will be paid this money. The question is who.

"I'm encouraged that the US is seeking an active and visible stance against prohibited drugs. We're looking within the range of a couple of weeks to two months before the situation is resolved on their end. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we can put this behind us."

Earlier this month, two defendants Scott Robinson and Sarah Izhaki, pleaded guilty to their role in distributing unadulterated and misbranded drugs.

Saudi Arabia has aspirations of becoming a tier-one member of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) and the JCSA has emphasised its strict approach to prohibited substances.

Prize-money increases

Saudi Derby $1.5m (from $800,000)
Obaiya Arabian Classic $2m (from $1.9m)
Jockey Club Local Handicap $1m (from $500,000)

The JCSA has increased the prize-money for three dirt races on the card: the Obaiya Arabian Classic, The Jockey Club Local Handicap and the Saudi Derby, in which Mishriff finished second in February. 

A new race will also be staged on the opening day of the meeting, the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap, which will be open to runners from tier two and tier three countries, such as Italy.

Organisers are keen for owners to be able to attend but it is too soon to say whether there will be spectators. They also hope to foster closer ties with racing jurisdictions in the region, such as the UAE and Bahrain, to allow horses to move freely between countries.

"We will use the lessons from the 2020 event to steer the JCSA and Saudi Cup meeting to new heights, building bridges in the industry to engage racing fans, inspire domestic involvement and enhance not only our offering but racing as a global sport," said Faisal.

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