Saudi, Bahrain, and UAE Will Team Up to Coordinate Horseracing in the Gulf
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are teaming up to present a coordinated setup for horse racing in the Gulf region. Things are still in the ‘talks’ stage, with the Dubai Racing Club, Bahrain’s Rashid Equestrian & Horse Racing Club, and the Jockey Club of Saudia Arabia taking charge of the project.
The aim is to elevate the standards of horse racing in the region, developing a product that can compete with the best in the world. Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, who currently acts as Chairman for the Jockey Club, envisions building a solid framework upon which mutually beneficial cooperation can take place.
The project aims to expand horse racing in the Gulf to exceed global standards, to begin by further extending competitions to both summer and winter. They also intend to talk about coordinating race schedules, as well as an effort for information sharing amongst breeders and owners.
The level of horse racing in the region has already experienced impressive growth in recent years, with heavy investment from all three countries leading to improved standards and international interest. It’s fair to say that the Gulf is already a leader in the horse racing industry; it’s likely that fruitful talks between the three players will serve to take it to the top.
The Dubai World Cup, for example, is already one of the richest on the planet. In 2019 the total purse was a tasty $12 million; compare that to the Kentucky Derby, where the prize was ‘just’ $3 million. It gets bigger: the Saudi Cup is worth a staggering $20 million.
But the idea is not to simply throw money at the races in order to compete with more traditional setups. The plans are to create a sustainable framework for long-term growth and competition, creating a high-quality product where the purse isn’t the single biggest ticket.
Growth of Horse Racing in the Gulf
The three countries are not getting together to resuscitate a fledgling product, or to start up an offering that can begin to compete with the United States or Europe. No, the growth of horse racing in the Gulf has been stratospheric in the last two decades in particular.
This began with a concentrated effort to level up horse racing in the region. Leaders wanted to improve the country’s reach and popularity on the world stage, and investing in a popular and recognized sport offered a unique opportunity.
Another driver of the industry’s growth is access, with most people now being able to catch the races online. Betting sites in the Gulf region Websites around the Gulf region, like arabianbetting.com for example, worked hard to engage fans locally by providing step by step information about how to bet on horse racing and also lists of the best horse racing sites. Bookies on the other hand have their own ways of encouraging betting by offering the races as free-to-watch events.
Betting companies also offer in-depth stats, such as recent form, trainer information, track condition, the works. It’s no surprise that betting on horses is now a popular pastime amongst many players in Gulf countries, often circumventing strict local stances on gambling.
But in the end, it’s all about the standard of the product. There’s no doubt that the region produces some of the best horse racing in the world today. The Saudi Cup in 2020, for instance, highlights the level of talent that gathers every year. Some of the best horses, jockeys, and trainers were on show to display their talents, with 22 individual Grade 1 or Group winners; the wins amongst them totaled 34, which is a stellar pooling of talent no matter the race.
The Saudi Cup also served to showcase how quickly local executives were able to set up a world-class event. The event was the first to feature a turf track in Saudi Arabia, adding to the showpiece race, which takes place on a dirt track.
After just one month after the initial seeds were sown, the 3,000-meter oval track already featured full grass coverage. The rooting wasn’t quite there, but near enough to the depths mandated by race day regulations.
In short, the talks amongst the three states are downright scary if you’re in charge of other races, including the Kentucky Derby. If their plans work, will the Gulf take over as the home of horse racing? Time will tell.
Initial Talks, Bright Future?
News of the proposed talks sent the media into a frenzy, and understandably so. Fans are equally excited. Yet negotiations are still very much in the early stages, and intention does not equal agreement. There is still much to do before the joint visions can be realized, or even started.
Yet there is reason to be optimistic. The proposals are strong, they benefit the region across the board, and it’s clear how Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain stand to gain from the developments. If the three countries realize even just half of their plans, horse racing will become a force to be reckoned with in the region.
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