x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sheikh Zayed salutes equine nobility

This week's image was taken in Newmarket, the country town that is recognised as the home of English racing, most famously for Tattershalls, the bloodstock auctioneers.

Sheikh Zayed with Kesrawan in 1969.
Sheikh Zayed with Kesrawan in 1969.

Sheikh Zayed's devotion to the Arabian horse is well known. He established stables in Abu Dhabi for the breeding and preservation of the pure Arabian line and raised its profile by supporting the entry of Arabians into many of the world's great races.

This week's image was taken in Newmarket, the country town that is recognised as the home of English racing, most famously for Tattershalls, the bloodstock auctioneers. Racing at Newmarket was recorded in the 12th century, but it was the devotion of British monarchs James I and Charles II in the 17th century that gave rise to its description as "the sport of kings".

Sheikh Zayed, then Ruler of Abu Dhabi, was maintaining the ancient connection between monarchs and equestrianism when, in June 1969, he visited Newmarket and the stables of Harvey Leader, who won the St Leger as a jockey and the Grand National as a trainer.

The horse shown here is Kesrawan, a two-year-old owned by the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to London. The following year Kesrawan was entered in the Epsom Derby but did not make the final cut for the race.

Which is a pity. The 1970 Derby was a classic still talked about today. It was won by Nijinsky II, one of the greatest racehorses in history, ridden that day by the equally great Lester Piggott.

Nijinsky's lineage can be traced to the Godolphin Arabian, a stallion taken from the Middle East to England in the 18th century to create the modern thoroughbred racehorse. Sheikh Zayed would have been proud.

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