The top honours in the first purebred Arabian race to be held at the Ascot racecourse belonged to French jockey Christophe Lemaire yesterday. Riding the Prince Khalid bin Sultan al Saud-owned Nayef al Khalidiah, Lemaire timed his run to perfection, fighting off a determined effort from the grey challenger, General, in front of 30,000 race-goers.
The President of the UAE Cup was originally established by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan to promote and celebrate the unique characteristics of the Arabian horse. It is now sponsored by Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) and held under the instructions of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
"Riding an Arabian horse or a thoroughbred doesn't make a difference to the jockey," said Lemaire. "For us, we know that Arabian racing is growing around the world and this race, at Ascot for the first time, was a very important milestone for the sport. As jockeys we just want to do a good job." Lemaire certainly did a good job on the Jean-Baptiste Bernard-trained colt. "I was impressed with the horse," he said, before jumping on a plane back to France.
"He was relaxed and I had him where I wanted him during the race. I let him come on to the outside and and when I felt he had some confidence, which is important for Arabian horses, I asked him for some more effort. When the other horse came alongside, I asked him for more and he responded. It's always great to win at Ascot and even better to win the first Arabian race." Trainer Bernard, who trains 30 Arabians and 20 thoroughbreds near Bordaeux in France, said his horse had been prepared specifically for the race. "This was the first objective for this horse," he said.
"I have been aiming for this race since the beginning of the season - more than six months. With Arabian horses it is often better to go for one specific race. Now we will go for the big race at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamp. "He's going to be a better horse next year," added the trainer, who has now had a winner in a President of the UAE Cup race three times. General, trained by Alban de Mieulle, was a respectable second under Arabian race specialist, David Bouland.
Raked, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed and trained by Francois Rohaut, was third. Rabah de Carrere was fourth while Adjinn D'arocco, ridden by Richard Hills and owned by Sheikh Hamdan, was fifth. The UAE-based trainer, Rod Simpson, who has had great success recently with the Sheikh Khalifa-owned Fryvolous, was sixth with Elmalak Elwaheed ridden by Daragh o' Donohoe. Simpson had earlier hinted that Fryvolous, still the top-rated Arabian horse, may be aimed at the Arabian race on Arc day which would set up a meeting with yesterday's winner, Nayef al Khalidiah.
Taleb al Muhairi, secretary general of the EEF, said high-profile races were important to promote Arabians as racehorses around the world. "This has been a great success," he said. "It was a very exciting race with great horses and was won well in an exciting finish. This proves that Arabian racing is as exciting as thoroughbred racing. "No one watching could doubt that they have as much to offer the spectator as any other race. The fact that more than 30,000 people saw this spectacle and enjoyed it is very significant."
Now in its 15th year, the President of the UAE Cup series moves to Moscow next month, before the final race in the four-part series in Baden Baden in Germany. email@example.com