Smith leads the way in international jockeys' challenge in Saudi Arabia

Lisa Allpress makes history with victory in first leg.

  • Friday 28 February
  • News
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American ace Mike Smith was crowned champion in the inaugural international jockeys’ challenge at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh on Friday.

The 54-year-old Hall of Fame rider clinched the prize by winning two of the four races, on Sun Hat and Paris.

Both horses were easy winners, with Sun Hat making all the running to take the second leg by seven and three-quarter lengths.

Paris was always prominent as he also stretched seven and a quarter lengths clear in the straight in the third leg.

“At my age I’m stoked to win this jockeys’ challenge,” said Smith, the winning-most jockey at the Breeders’ Cup and in Grade Ones in North America.

“I’m so happy and very blessed. I was hoping to do well in the challenge and then we have the Saudi Cup and I’m really, really looking forward to tomorrow.

“I think my filly in the Saudi Cup, Midnight Bisou is going to love this track, she acts like she will.

“I’m proud to start the time I’m here off by winning tonight in great fashion. I’ll be back, I love this place and I love that dirt course out there. It’s the best dirt course I’ve been on.

“It’s very kind and very good for a horse and America should really take a look at this surface. Man, it’s kind and when it feels kind it is kind. I absolutely loved it.”

Lisa Allpress created a piece of history as she rode Matmon to victory in the first leg.

Three-time champion jockey in New Zealand, Allpress stormed up the far rail to deny Olivier Peslier aboard Motayammen, becoming the first woman to ride a winner in Saudi Arabia.

She said: “I came here with no expectations, I just wanted to enjoy the experience, but we have been very well looked after and I want to thank everyone who has organised it.

“That means a lot. I’m just so thankful to get the invite to come here.

“Where I come from it’s not a crazy thing for a woman to be riding in the big races, but this means a lot. I’m just happy to be here and doing my thing. I came here with an open mind and I’m extremely thankful to be asked.

“It’s very groundbreaking and I can’t believe it, it’s very special.”

Sibylle Vogt made it a red-letter day for female riders when the Swiss-born German-based jockey took leg four on Sabeq’hom.

Vogt also took second position overall on 29 points, with Smith picking up 33.

She said: “It’s really nice to win on a night like this. I was so excited to be here and the night was so special, and for three women to be in the top places (second and a tie for third) is great.”

Ryan Moore missed out on the action because of travel difficulties.

Moore, who is due to ride Magic Wand in the Saudi Cup on Saturday, was replaced by Irad Ortiz Jr.

Saudi Arabia banned foreign pilgrims temporarily from entering the country because of the coronavirus – although as yet there have been no confirmed cases in the country.

Moore has ridden recently in Hong Kong, where more than 80 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed.

An official press release from the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia reported that Moore’s rides in all races on Friday would be taken by Ortiz, with the reason cited as “travel problems”.

Smith leads the way in international jockeys' challenge in Saudi Arabia
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