ABU DHABI // Being an unofficial hotspot for purebred Arabian racing, Abu Dhabi celebrates a double tonight; the start of the new season and another grand accomplishment in completing the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Racing Festival's final race.
Jean Pierre Totain, who became the first and only trainer from Europe to win the Kahayla Classic, the Arabian showpiece and traditional opener in the Dubai World Cup meeting, is one of the invitees among the five trainers and nine jockeys, all of whom either have trained or ridden Sheikh Mansour's horses.
"The Middle East, particularly the UAE, have given a new lease of life for Arabian racing, and they continue to play a vital role on its improvement," said Totain, who saddled Magic de Piboul to victory in the Kahayla Classic in 2001.
"The Arabian races are now better known and is drawing global attention. They have made their way to some of the most prestigious meetings, the Royal Ascot in England and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France.
"It is getting better every year with both, the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup and Sheikh Mansour Festival series, providing the encouragement and incentive for the owners and breeders of the Purebred Arabians."
Totain trains both, Arabians and thoroughbreds in France, and has saddled more than 1,600 winners as a trainer and more than 50 as a breeder in his 24 years on the job.
He is one of the four trainers for Sheikh Mansour in France. The others who arrived along with him are Jean Francois Bernard, Robert Litt and Damien de Watrigant, who ran Djezika in the Kahayla Classic in 2006.
De Watrigant will get an opportunity to watch a former inmate and winner of the Deauville Derby, Kandar Dul Falgas, racing in tonight's feature race, the Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Cup, a prep race for the National Day Cup.
Joining the trainers are nine French riders, all of them who have carried the silks of Sheikh Mansour to victory in Europe.
Phillipe Sogorb is booked on Barood Al Reef, for the Al Reef Stables, in tonight's opener; a maiden for UAE bred colts and geldings.
"It's my first visit and I am greatly looking forward to riding in Abu Dhabi," said Sogorb. "I have heard of UAE's racing and watched the Dubai World Cup, so it's nice to have got an opportunity and experience a ride.
"Given the opportunity, I will certainly like to ride in the UAE. It suits us very well because the UAE season is during the winter and our off-season in Europe. I hope I can get to know more of the local trainers that can lead up to a good partnership for the future." It was a sentiment shared by Sogorb's colleagues Charles Nora, Jean Bernard Eyquem, Jean Baptiste Hamel, Jimmy Martin, Roberto Montenegro, Fabrice Veron, David Morrison and Francois Xavier Bertras.