Eclipse nominee Jessica Pyfer set for Saudi Cup weekend appearance

RIYADH: Jessica Pyfer, a rising star of the weighing room in the US, has been confirmed to ride in the stc International Jockeys Challenge next month.

The event will be held the day before the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack on Feb. 25, and is sponsored for a third year by platinum partner, stc, the digital enabler in the telecommunication industry in the Kingdom.

Pyfer, 23, who only began riding in September 2020, notched an impressive 59 winners from 557 rides in her second full season as a jockey in 2021, amassing prize money of $2.8 million.

Her achievements in such a short time have seen her nominated for an Eclipse Award, which recognizes the achievements of both horses and participants across the US thoroughbred industry.

After being confirmed for the IJC, Pyfer said: “I am super excited. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve only been race-riding for about a year-and-a-half and have never competed outside the US, so for an opportunity like this to come along is pretty cool.”

She added: “I’ve spoken to Mike Smith, who has ridden in Saudi a lot, and he told me that I’ll have the time of my life, so I couldn’t be more excited,” she said.

“My season has been amazing so far and I couldn’t have ever imagined that I’d be where I am now, with both an invite to the International Jockeys Challenge at the Saudi Cup and a nomination for an Eclipse Award.”

Pyfer said: “It will be amazing to line up against so many great jockeys, and a pleasure to ride alongside some of the world’s best female jockeys.”

Joining the up-and-coming US star is Argentine rider Andrea Marinhas, who began her career in the US, and is now based there and in her native Argentina.

Marinhas, 40, has 94 career wins to her name, with 15 of those coming this season, 11 in Argentina and four in the US.

“I’m so pleased to have been invited. The first thing that came to my mind was I could be riding with many of my favorite jockeys. It will be a beautiful experience,” Marinhas said.

“My season has been great,” she said. “I lead the national and La Plata racecourse female jockeys’ statistics with 18 winners and an 18 percent strike rate, so it’s great to get some international recognition. The opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best in Saudi is massive for me.”

Pyfer and Marinhas are the second and third female jockeys confirmed to ride in the IJC, after the UK’s Hayley Turner, and will be joined by a further four female riders.

Seven male jockeys — five international and two home-based riders — will make up the 14 strong IJC field, with last year’s winner, Shane Foley, and Australia’s Glen Boss already confirmed.

The stc International Jockeys Challenge features four $400,000 handicaps, with a further $100,000 for the challenge itself and riders receiving 15 percent of prize money won.

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