JOCKEY QUOTESTIAGO PEREIRA, MARCKIE’S WATER, WINNER: “The last race he didn’t break very well for me. This time he broke well and he really relaxed after we passed the finish line the first time. We settled in behind horses and when it was time to go, we went outside and he really responded.”FLAVIEN PRAT, UNITED, SECOND: Did the stumble crossing the dirt cost you a chance to win? “No, it happened very early in the race and we had a chance to recover. As you saw, he ran really good.”BRICE BLANC, ASHLEYLUVSSUGAR, THIRD: “He ran a great race. He’s all racehorse, you can’t take anything away from him at his age. We were in a great position turning for home and he proved he can still run with these horses. Great effort.”TRAINER QUOTESRICHARD BALTAS, MARKIE’S WATER, WINNER: “Wow. They were all lined up there and I was just hoping he was going to explode the last part. He kicked on like he was the best horse.”OWNER QUOTESBILLY KOSH, PARTNER OF LITTLE RED FEATHER RACING, MARCKIE’S WATER, WINNER: “I grew up idolizing Charlie Whittingham and to win a graded stake in his name with a Cal-bred is amazing. We thought when they turned for home that he was going to run last, he wasn’t firing, then all of a sudden he found daylight and he just went. That was an extremely impressive performance. We’ve told Tiago this horse likes to make a last run and he likes to be outside of horses. It was pretty amazing down the lane.“Desormeaux took a hold on the favorite and that changed the whole complexion of the race. Kudos to Ritchie Baltas and his team and all of the Little Red Feather partners out there this means a lot it’s a Grade II, a big race especially for a Cal-bred. Tom McCrocklin is here who bred the horse and Frank Mermenstein is probably out there watching.“Russian River is amazing, she was such a fun horse to watch and she’s produced now, See Smoke and Marckies Water who is now a graded stakes winner and Opus One who won a few weeks ago, it’s a great family.”NOTES: The winning owners are Little Red Feather Racing & Norman Tavares.Little Red Feather Racing’s Marckie’s Water and jockey Tiago Pereira, center, win the Grade II $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes Saturday, May 25, 2019 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA. © BENOIT PHOTO
Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic reform program, Saudi Arabia is working on to expand their tourism potential by promoting pilgrimage as the main component of the tourism initiatives to attract more visitors into the country. The Haj, a journey every able-bodied Muslim who can afford must perform once in a lifetime, is a profound experience for those who undertake it. It is also big business for Saudi Arabia. The Haj and the year-round lesser pilgrimage, Umrah, generate $12 billion in revenues from worshippers’ lodging, transport, gifts, food and fees.Mecca’s Grand Mosque is visited by millions of Muslim pilgrims every year.However, owing to restrictions, pilgrimage visas outside the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are difficult to procure. The Saudi tourism commission has pledged to rehabilitate four sites in Mecca: Jabal al-Nour, Jabal Thawr, Hudaybiyyah and Mohammed’s migration path from Mecca to Medina. But there is hardly any sign of restoration in Mecca so far, said Irfan Alawi, founder of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation.Pilgrims comprise the bulk of Saudi Arabia’s 20 million annual foreign visitors, apart from workers and business travellers This year’s Haj witnessed nearly 2.4 million, an up from 1.9 million since last year and 7.5 million performed Umrah in 2016. Officials aim to increase the number of Umrah and Haj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020 and hope to double the Umrah number again to 30 million by 2030. In addition, they hope that pilgrims will be attracted to spend money at museums, luxury resorts and historical sites.