Dubai International Arabian race day is also a means by which the UAE can further raise its profile in British sport, writes Geoffrey Riddle.
Horse racing night in Newbury that helps promote culture
The Dubai International Arabian race day at Newbury Racecourse on Thursday night is not only a vehicle for promoting the Purebred Arabian breed but also is a means by which the UAE can further raise its profile in British sport.
An eight-race card restricted to Purebred Arabians, as well as several competitions and prize giveaways with a UAE theme, will attract an estimated 18,000 racegoers to the first twilight fixture in 31 years of the event.
The heavy cultivation of Arabian racing in Britain plays a fundamental ambassadorial role for the region in Britain.
"We always promote cultural exchanges between the UK and the UAE and horseracing is part of that," said Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum, the first secretary of the UAE Embassy in London.
"We do have other events that we plan during the year but racing is one of the most important."
Racegoers will be handed free admission tonight, and most of those will have been informed of the event due to a campaign that resulted in 50,000 flyers handed out in the local area over the past few weeks.
The flyer campaigns are designed to get the adults to come; the children can win an iPad mini and participate in an art project whereby primary school pupils are given an opportunity to express themselves by painting life-size sculptures.
Camels and falcons have featured in previous years, whereas Thursday night 15 painted Arabian horses will be on display.
Since the project's inception in 2009 more than £40,000 (Dh226,800) has been given to schools local to the Newbury area, to the delight of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the patron of Dubai International Arabian day, who is set to attend.
"Sheikh Hamdan is very interested in getting the new generation involved in the sport by loving the horse," said Mirza Al Sayegh, the director of the Minister Of Finance's office. "We have 15 schools taking part this year. We need to get very close to these areas and may extend the number of schools we visit next year."
The racegoers will have the opportunity to win four five-star holidays to Dubai, a new Citroen car and a selection of 45 watches worth over £6,000 each provided by Jebel Ali Racecourse, who are sponsoring the Group 1 Zabeel International Stakes for the second consecutive year.
"We have a strategic relationship between us and any stables owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid as we welcome his sponsorship of around 30 per cent of races at Jebel Ali," said Shareef Al Halawani, the Jebel Ali Racecourse deputy director general.
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