ABU DHABI // Purebred Arabians have raced at some of the world’s most prestigious meetings, such as Royal Ascot in England and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France. In September, the breed will get a chance to increase its global standing as delegates from more than 20 countries are expected to arrive in the capital for the first World Arabian Horse Racing Conference.
The event, which coincides with the Abu Dhabi Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition from September 23 to 25, will be held by the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Global Flat Racing Festival. The aim is to attract interest from breeders and stable owners from as far a field as South America, Australia and Japan.
“This conference is another incredible initiative through Sheikh Mansour’s Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival to promote and further develop the industry,” said Sami al Bunain, the president of the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR), at Emirates Palace hotel yesterday.
Arabian horses now enjoy a higher status in the industry and [it is] still growing. We want to attract more members including from North and South America, and Australia and Japan, where there is huge potential for the breed to grow. “We are also looking at a wider spectrum as Arabians are renowned for their beauty as show horses and for endurance racing, besides flat racing and for riding.” The purebred Arabian is a breed of horse that originated in the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the world’s oldest breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses that resemble modern Arabians dating back 4,500 years.
The Arabian bloodline is found in almost every modern breed of riding horse. In the UAE, the Arabians have been running since flat racing came under the Jockey Club rules in 1992. And the numbers have grown remarkably, with Abu Dhabi now the headquarters for Purebred Arabian flat racing.
The UAE was the first country to take Arabian racing to Europe with the launch of the President of the UAE Cup, established in 1994 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, specifically with the aim of promoting the breed. Last month, they broke new ground by staging a race for Arabians during the 2000 Guineas meeting at the Curragh, the headquarters for flat racing in Ireland. The Keenland course in Kentucky, USA, was last October also added to the six-race President of the UAE Cup series. Ascot, for the first time in its 298-year history, hosted a race for Arabians last year. Arabian races are promoted by both the Emirates Equestrian Federation and the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Global Flat Racing Festival, which are both based in Abu Dhabi.
According al Bunain, the Gulf is a hot bed of Arabian racing with Qatar staging the world’s richest race in the category for a purse of US$1 million (Dh3.7m), the Emir’s Cup.
They also sponsor the Qatar World Cup for Arabians for a €450,000 (Dh2m) purse on the Arc day. Abu Dhabi stages the President’s Cup with a prize of Dh1m and the Kahayla Classic (US$250,000), is the Arabian showpiece and traditional opener of the Dubai World Cup, the richest meeting in the world. The Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival for the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Cup has a seven-race schedule, six in Europe and one at Delaware Park in the United States.
They have introduced a 10-race series for the Al Wathba Stud Farm in Abu Dhabi exclusively for smaller stables for next season and plans are underway to introduce 30 more races globally.
“These races are to encourage and to provide the small-time breeders and owners with more opportunities to participate and be actively engaged in the breed,” said Lara Sawaya, director of the Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Arabian Flat Racing Festival. We are also running a contest to forecast the winners of the Sheikh Mansoor Global race series through our website (www.sheikhmansoorfestival.com) and facebook for a total prize of Dh125,000, starting from the next series July 11 in Holland.”