Updated – Jockey John Velazquez, named to ride TACITUS in the Saudi Cup, is reportedly stranded in Spain and will not be able to travel to Saudi Arabia.

California jockey Umberto Rispoli and former rider/television commentator Gary Stevens were removed from a plane on Thursday as they were headed to the SAUDI CUP (G1) in Riyadh.

Rispoli, with 126 wins in 2021, was set to ride the Steve Asmussen-trained Max Player in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Saturday, post time 12:40 p.m. Gary Stevens was to be on the broadcast team for FoxSports which has a host of on-air people for its show.

Already a polarized event because of its host country, this latest news is sure to heighten criticism for the race which has not yet even awarded the $10 million winner’s share from the 2020, and first, edition.

The issue was a change in the COVID-19 testing rule apparently made on Thursday which meant Rispoli and Stevens were not allowed entry into Saudi Arabia.

Rispoli took to Twitter Thursday evening:

“Before, it was 72 hours prior to the flight. This time, in Riyadh, the request, a COVID test, was 72 hours once you land in Riyadh. It was something that was out of my hands. I’m so devastated, I’m frustrated, and that’s why I couldn’t go to ride the Saudi Cup.”

Stevens added:

“We all knew the rules. They literally changed them just before they fired up the engines. We met all protocol and they changed them.”

It is unclear if any more riders or other people have been blocked from travelling to the Saudi Cup.