John Velazquez Confirmed For Saudi Arabia’s International Jockeys Challenge

Leading US-based rider John Velazquez is the final international jockey to be confirmed for the stc International Jockeys Challenge (IJC) on Friday, Feb. 19. The 49-year-old will take on 13 other jockeys in the IJC, before partnering Tacitus, owned by the late Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, in the $20m Saudi Cup a day later.

It won’t be a first appearance at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh for the jockey from Puerto Rico:

“I was last in Saudi six or seven years ago and I was very impressed with the track. The dirt was nice and smooth, they did a really good job with it.

“I’m excited to take part in the IJC, it’s a fun concept. I did one in Japan once and I also went to a challenge in Turkey. We used to do it in Texas a long time ago as well.”

Velazquez landed a first Breeders’ Cup Classic in November with Authentic, the horse who had given him a third Kentucky Derby just two months earlier, but the pilot is no stranger to international success, winning the 2005 Dubai World Cup on Roses In May and the 2017 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot with Lady Aurelia.

“I love these big international races where lots of people come together from all over the world. It’s great to meet everyone and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” said Velazquez.

“The Saudi Cup is a great concept and they pulled it off well last year. It’s really good for the sport to have the eyes of the world watching this meeting.”

Bill Mott’s Tacitus, who finished fifth in the inaugural edition of The Saudi Cup 12 months ago, will be his mount in the world’s most valuable race on Saturday 20 February:

“Tacitus ran a good race last year and hopefully we can get a better position in the first part of the race. He is perhaps better over slightly further but he does have the speed to be fairly close to the front runners.

“There are some very good horses to beat like Knicks Go and Charlatan, they look really tough and like to go forward. Hopefully they go too fast and we can sit not too far back before coming down the lane,” he said.

In a career that has spanned over 30 years, it is clear what adding a Saudi Cup to his glittering resume would mean to Velazquez, particularly in the iconic Juddmonte colors:

“It would be incredible. To get your hands on a $20m race – we all dream of that – hopefully Tacitus can do it,” he said.

“Prince Khalid Abdullah has been such a great asset for the sport all around the world and we are all going to miss him.”

This year’s stc International Jockeys Challenge takes place on Friday, Feb. 19 – the day before the $20million Saudi Cup. Jockeys will be made up of seven international women, two local men and five international men. The prize money in each of the four races will be $400,000 and there is a $100,000 prize pot for the Challenge with $30,000 going to the winner.

12 of the 14 riders have now been confirmed with the remaining two local jockeys announced soon:

Sibylle Vogt, 25 (SUI)

Jorge Ricardo, 59 (BRA)

Jessica Marcialis, 30 (ITA)

Maria Lujan Asconiga, 27 (ARG)

Nieves Garcia, 43 (SPA)

Cristian Demuro, 28 (ITA)

Nanako Fujita, 23 (JPN)

Malin Holmberg, 30 (SWE)

Shane Foley, 32 (IRE)

William Buick, 32 (UK)

Hollie Doyle, 24 (UK)

John Velazquez, 49 (PR)

For more information on The Saudi Cup including Entries, Past Performances and Where to Watch: www.thesaudicup.com.sa

The post John Velazquez Confirmed For Saudi Arabia’s International Jockeys Challenge appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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