The Saudi Cup International Jockeys Challenge, led by defending champion Caitlin Jones, plus a mix of international female and male riders like Victoria Alonso, Joanna Mason, Frankie Dettori, Luis Saez, Joao Moreia, and Chantal Sutherland, is set for King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia on Friday.
The jockeys will compete to receive 15% of prize-money for each of the four $400,000 races in they win with a further $100,000 going to the overall champion.
“It is my first time in Saudi Arabia and I’m actually blown away by the hospitality and the kindness people have shown” said the Florida-based and Canadian-born Sutherland.
The daughter of a Standardbred trainer, Sutherland is no stranger to making history. She was the first woman to win the GI Santa Anita H. and also the first to ride in the G1 Dubai World Cup, both aboard Game On Dude (Awesome Again). Sutherland also piloted him to a second-place finish in the 2011 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Drosselmeyer (Distorted Humor), who was ridden by then-boyfriend Mike Smith.
“I was second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and I thought that was around the time to maybe have a child,” said Sutherland. I stopped racing and took about four years out and didn’t ever get to have a kid. The marriage [to Dan Kruse] didn’t work out either, so I went back to racing, got injured, then got back from the injury, then Covid happened.”
Sutherland’s decision to return to the track was prompted by a move to the Sunshine State over the course of the winter in early 2021.
“I was going to ride just before Covid. I was going to ride Turfway [Park] and that was freezing,” she said. “I’d frozen for I don’t know how long in my career, in Canada, at Aqueduct. I thought, ‘I’m going to Florida,’ and I just loved it. It felt like home.”
As far as her mounts for Friday in Saudi Arabia, Sutherland will be aboard the appropriately-named, Fighter (KSA) (Official Flame) in race two over 1600 meters and Inhimr (KSA) (Pomeroy) in race three going 1400 meters, both on dirt. Then in the pair of turf races, she will guide Go Fast Traou Land (Fr) (George Vancouver) in the 1200-meter race five and finish off with Billy Batts (City Zip) in race six over 2100 meters.
She added, “I’m really looking forward to the Jockeys Challenge. I’ve already worked out the races, watched all the replays and I’ve spoken to some key handicap people who have put the races together. I feel I am ready, physically, mentally and preparation-wise. I’ve done my homework. It’s going to be exciting.”
Sutherland is looking forward to staying put at Gulfstream Park once she returns from the Middle East, especially since year-round racing continues to draw jockeys from all quadrants.
“I’m very happy in Florida and very happy to be doing what I’m doing again,” Sutherland said. It has been stop-start, but now everything, with the flow, I feel there is an alignment in my life and everything is going well.”