x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Arabians are proving to be a breed apart in horse racing

A landmark weekend for the breed was capped by I'll Have Another's victory in the Preakness Stakes at Baltimore, Maryland.

Victory by I'll Have Another, on the left, over out Bodemeister in the 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse on May 19, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland, was part of a big weekend for the Arabian breed.
Victory by I'll Have Another, on the left, over out Bodemeister in the 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse on May 19, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland, was part of a big weekend for the Arabian breed.

 

These are heady times for Arabian racing and the Listed contest at the Curragh on Sunday is the latest in a series of races in the past few weeks that have escalated the quest to promote the breed internationally.

Six go to post in the mile contest that is staged on the same card as the Irish 1000 Guineas, sponsored by Etihad Airways.

The race comes on the back of a landmark weekend for Arabian racing, after the sport was showcased to dramatic effect in Europe and the United States. There were 121,903 spectators crammed in to Pimlico Racecourse at Baltimore, Maryland, seven days ago.

They not only witnessed I'll Have Another's thrilling defeat of Bodemeister in the Preakness Stakes to set up a tilt at the Triple Crown, they also watched TM Fred Texas follow up his victory in the Dubai Kahayla Classic by becoming the first Arabian horse to win on the card.

The Preakness Stakes has been run for 137 years.

On the same day at Newbury in southern England, Frankel, the world's highest-rated thoroughbred, sauntered to his 10th consecutive victory. The first Arabian race for women jockeys in England was staged only 40 minutes later.

"According to NBC [an American television network] figures there were 600 million people who watched the Preakness Stakes worldwide," Neil Abrahams, the head of racing for the Emirates Equestrian Federation, told The National. "Channels in Abu Dhabi and Qatar showed it live, and it was telecast throughout Asia.

"As a live event it was the biggest crowd to ever have watched an Arabian race. For promoting the breed, you can't do much better.

"It is what Sheikh Zayed wanted 20 years ago when he started to set up the President of the UAE Cup."

The contest in Pimlico and Sunday's event are the first of seven races that make up the President of the UAE Cup, the next of which will be run in Paris next month.

The series also has attracted the interest of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, who will be attending the race in Moscow in July.

The race at Newbury, won by Veronika Aske aboard Muhal, was the fifth leg of the HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship and falls under the umbrella of the HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Racing Festival.

For Aske, it was triumph that had a significant impact. On the one hand her victory propelled her into the limelight on a stage on which she once could have only dreamed of competing. Not only was it also a success for women, but it resulted in a spot for her, and her native Norway, in the final leg of the competition held in Abu Dhabi in November.

"I'm truly delighted to be part of this international campaign to promote women in sport," Aske said.

The template of using horse racing as a tool for promoting the region began almost 20 years ago when Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, created Godolphin.

His private stable has planted the UAE flag globally by competing in 16 countries, winning in 14 of those. It has helped firmly to spread the word about Dubai, especially when in 1996 the connections of Cigar, America's dual Horse of the Year, elected to race in the Dubai World Cup.

"Sports in general and horse racing in particular are fantastic ways to strengthen ties and links with foreign nations in places where most other means of communications do not work well," Abdul Rahman Ghanim Al Mutaiwee, the UAE Ambassador to the United Kingdom, said.

So expect an influx of Irish tourists sometime in the near future.

sports@thenational.ae

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