x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Female jockeys offered driving incentive in final leg

The final race of the inaugural Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship will be the highlight of the opening day of the capital's racing season.

Emirati Shathra Al Hajjaj, an amateur jockey, will contest the final leg of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on November 11. Handout
Emirati Shathra Al Hajjaj, an amateur jockey, will contest the final leg of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on November 11. Handout

ABU DHABI // The final race of the inaugural Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship will be the highlight of the opening day of the capital's racing season.

The championship is the first international Purebred Arabian series specifically catering for women jockeys, with nine races having already taken place around the world throughout the year - from Oman to the United States.

The winners of the nine races so far will be joined by Shathra Al Hajjaj, the Emirati amateur jockey, and professionals Michelle Payne of Australia and Joy Scott of the United States, in a 12-horse race on November 11 at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.

Organisers are giving a Mercedes to the winner while a second car will go to one of the 108 jockeys who took part in the series, via a random draw.

Veronika Aske, the winner of the race at Newbury, England, in May is looking forward to the final.

"It is a cool prize, and if I win, it will be my biggest winnings from a race," said the 26-year-old Norwegian amateur, who works for the Norway Racing Channel as a television presenter and reporter.

"Aside from the exciting prize, this race series is a great incentive for amateur female jockeys like us.

"The races are not confined to amateurs, so it is very competitive and obviously one should have some good fortune to be on a good horse.

"To win at Newbury was the biggest success I have had and winning in Abu Dhabi can certainly be better."

Aske has ridden 10 winners in her career across England, Sweden, Spain and Norway, and qualifies for the final after victory on the Oman-bred Muhal on May 19, the first time she has been first past the post on a Purebred Arabian.

Fatima Al Manji, the Omani rider who won on-board Sandpiper at the Houston Race Park in the US on March 3, said it was a proud moment and a "great feeling to represent the country in the final".

Lara Sawaya, director of the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival, the organisers of the race series, said two additional venues - California and Duinguit, the Netherlands - have already been added to next year's racing calendar.

"The response has been overwhelming and we have increased the number of races to comprise 12 including the final in Abu Dhabi for next year," she said.

"This initiative has opened up the doors, particularly for female jockeys from the Arab world.

Sami Al Boenain, the chairman of the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing, added: "This is a great opportunity for them [female Arab jockeys] and I expect it to grow rapidly in the coming years."

 

apassela@thenational.ae

 

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