New Zealand jockey Lisa Allpress creates history in Riyadh

New Zealand jockey Lisa Allpress created history in the International Jockeys Challenge at King Abdulaziz Racetrack, Riyadh, on Friday, February 28th, 2020, becoming the first female jockey win in the Asian Racing Federation member country.

Lisa Allpress and Matmon, picture Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia
Lisa Allpress and Matmon, picture Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia

Lisa Allpress was one of seven female jockeys making their debuts in Saudi Arabia over the two-day racing festival for the US $20 million Saudi Cup and she was delighted to be part of the event.

A multiple champion in her homeland Allpress had to wait until late in the day on Friday’s programme as Olivier Peslier, riding Motayammen, was in full control in the lead in the US$400,000, stc Dare. However, with 400m remaining, his horse began to falter and Allpress, riding Matmon, began to close.

Just before the line, Matmon put his head past Motayammen and Allpress, wearing the white colours of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Sons, punched her fist in celebration.

"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," said Allpress.

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

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

“I had a good chat with Mr. (Phil) Tuck and the handicapper (Phil Smith) and we went through my rides and it basically made me relax and go out there and have fun. It is very ground-breaking and I cannot believe it, it is very special.”

US Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith emerged victorious in the International Jockeys Challenge with two wins from the four rounds of the competition, which featured 14 invited riders from around the globe.

The multi-decorated 54-year-old, who boasts the 2018 Triple Crown among his numerous honours, stole an easy lead in round two, the $400,000 stc Cloud over 1600m, aboard the Saleh Suliman Alhamd-owned Sun Hat which he never looked likely to relinquish.

Then in round three, the $400,000 stc Pay over 1800m, he again finished well clear aboard the consistent Paris, in the colours of Sharaf Mohammed S. Al Hariri.

"At my age I am stoked to win this jockeys challenge,” said Smith.

The concluding round saw Swiss-born, German-based Sibylle Vogt join the honours board as she edged a very tight finish to the $400,000 stc 5G over 1200m. A strong ride on Sabeq’hom saw her hold off Canadian Emma-Jayne Wilson and Alshatherwan.

Vogt also took second position in the overall results with 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."
Mickaelle Michel tied for third with Allpress on 15 points.

The rest of the riders were delighted to have taken part.

Michel said: "It was a really great event with so many nice people. It is a nice big track and it was an honour to be invited. I am really happy now."

Frankie Dettori said: "It’s fun. I enjoy it – they are racing for $1.6 million!"

Sophie Doyle said: "The event is great. They're showcasing fabulous jockeys. It's great for the women to be here. For Lisa (Allpress) to have won the first race of the jockey challenge, you could not have asked for anything better. (She was) the first female to ride (a race) on the track and to have won it was great."

Irad Ortiz said: "I am having fun, they’re treating us really well, I am enjoying it."

Wilson said: "Jockey challenges are unique, I have ridden in them all over the world, it is always a pleasure to be invited. For the first time with an event like this, to have it go like this, is fantastic.

"To have an event like this the day before your biggest day is not easy - hands down fantastic job.

The competition itself - on a surface like this against this calibre of riders and at such a wonderful facility - just adds to the atmosphere. It has been an absolute pleasure and honour to participate and I am really happy that I came.”