Chasing $20M in horse racing’s battle of riches

CNN  — 

When Diomed pipped Boudrow to victory in the original Derby in 1780, owner Sir Charles Bunbury pocketed a little over £1,000.

Britain’s richest race offers more than £921,000 (more than $1 million) to the winner these days, but even that bumper pot is dwarfed by some of the riches on offer around the world.

And it seems horse racing’s financial arms race is gathering pace, with the title of world’s richest race changing hands three times in the last two years.

Until 2016, the Dubai World Cup was the market leader, with the winner that year California Chrome scooping nearly $5 million.

Then came a new edition to the calendar, the Pegasus World Cup in Florida, with an eye-watering purse of $12 million with almost $7 million going to first-placed Arrogate.

The Pegasus even boosted its pot to $16M the following year, before dropping the purse to $9 million and spreading the wealth across two races in 2019.

But next year, a megabucks sum of $20 million will tempt owners and trainers to Saudi Arabia for the inaugural Saudi Cup. A first prize of $10 million – three times as much as for Europe’s richest race the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – is likely to grab plenty of attention in the racing world.

The question is: where will it all end?

READ: Big bucks – The world’s richest horse races

‘One of the great meetings’

According to Alastair Donald, of global race promoter the International Racing Bureau, the Saudi Cup is not just a brazen attempt to be biggest and best.

He draws parallels with the Dubai World Cup, which was devised by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 1996.

“I don’t think being the richest was the aim,” said Donald of the Saudi Cup.

“It was just like Sheikh Mohammed’s aim to create something that was special at the time in terms of being worth a lot of money. That was just part of the plan to put Dubai on the map as a racing nation and as somewhere that was going to become a holiday destination.

“I think it was successful and has stood the test of time - it’s still one of the great meetings.”

He added: “This is headline-grabbing stuff and it’s more about making a statement about Saudi Arabia to announce itself to the racing world and create something that’s a statement of intent.”

After two chart-topping years, Pegasus organizers split the cash across the original dirt race and a new turf race to attract more international talent.

“It’s just about evolving,” Tim Rivto, COO of organizer The Stronach Group, told CNN Sport. “I think when we look back in 20 years, it’s going to look very different from what it looked like in the beginning.”

READ: Pegasus World Cup: Where Snoop Dog meets $16M race