DUBAI // Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen president who is an avid racing fan and owns a string of horses in Dubai, has two significant goals in the sport.
One is to win in the Dubai World Cup and the other is to establish a horse-racing centre in Grozny, his country's capital.
"Of all the races in the world, the Dubai World Cup is the one I want," said Kadyrov, 35, who last year bought the World Cup contender Gitano Hernando just days before the race and was in Dubai to watch his new investment finish sixth.
The controversial leader has eight horses stabled at Meydan Racecourse under the care of the trainer Herman Brown, with two more due to arrive last night and another later this month.
Three Kadyrov horses, Mikael Glinka, Bronze Cannon and Storm Chispazo, have been entered to race this Thursday while several may be entered in races on World Cup Day, March 31, with the hope that at least one can be a contender in the big race.
Kadyrov also wants to bring horse racing to Chechnya, although he has no expectations that it would rival Dubai.
"In Dubai racing is very well established and the whole world comes here," Kadyrov said on a recent visit to Meydan to inspect his horses. "We are very grateful to Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] for giving the world this ability to race here. In Chechnya we do not have an international racing scene.
"We can't have racing on the same level in Grozny, but we can hold a schedule of racing for the people to come and enjoy."
A major redevelopment programme has been underway in Chechnya's capital for several years and the architectural similarities to Dubai are striking.
The physical scars of two wars have been partially hidden by the construction of a massive sports complex, which includes a 30,000-seat stadium and racetrack as well as Dubai-like skyscrapers, a water park and an ice rink.
Kadyrov said racing is popular in Chechnya because it is a part of the country's heritage.
"In Chechnya it is a tradition that when a son is born the family makes a horse race in his name," he said. "For me I am very proud to have racehorses and to see them run.
"Because of my position I can't come to all the race meetings, but I always follow my horses every time they run and I have plans to further increase my string."
Kadyrov made headlines in the US last year when one of his horses, Sweet Ducky, was removed from the list of runners at Kentucky's Keeneland Racecourse over accusations of human rights abuses in Chechnya.
Many of his horses race in Russia, and he has had multiple winners in the Russian Derby. His runners have also competed in Australia, Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, Dubai and England, though not always without controversy.
In Australia, some politicians protested when one of his horses was invited to enter the Melbourne Cup in 2009. The horse ran and was placed third.
But there is no sign that allegations of abuse by his security forces are curtailing Kadyrov from chasing wins in big races. A recent buying spree has given him several high-profile hopefuls for Dubai World Cup day:
– Maritimer, a star Canadian three-year-old, arrives in Dubai next week. The winner of the Coronation Futurity and Display Stakes is to be campaigned for the UAE Derby.
– Dux Scholar, the Group 3 runner from the yard of the British trainer Sir Michael Stoute, is to have a run at Meydan this month and hopes are high that he will qualify for the Dubai Duty Free or the Godolphin Mile.
– Double Group 3 winner Green Destiny, formerly trained by William Haggas, another British handler, has been purchased with a view to a Dubai World Cup run.
Brown, who has trained horses for Kadyrov for four years, will also take delivery this week of two unknown quantities from Moscow. Ergiyas won 12 of his 17 Russian starts and Dorian Crown has won eight from 19.
"They are good horses in Russia, but obviously we don't know much about them yet," Brown said. "Ergiyas was bred in the USA and Dorian Crown in England. We are a little bit in the dark with these ones but they seem interesting prospects."
As well as the new arrivals, Brown is hoping to see Kadyrov's stayer, Mikael Glinka, compete in the two-mile Dubai Gold Cup.
"We are trying to get Mikael Glinka qualified for the stayer's race and Gitano Hernando, who had an injury setback at the start of the season, seems to be coming good again now," Brown said. "He's now had two cracks at the Dubai World Cup, so my inclination is to campaign him for the Sheema Classic on World Cup day this year."