Ali Rashid Al Raihe still plotting Grandstand finishes after all these years in UAE racing
Emirati has been training horses since 1984 and the drive for winners is still going strong
Ali Rashid Al Raihe is a rags to riches story.
Coming from an Ajman Bedouin family and growing up in the days before the oil boom, Al Raihe had to endure a harsh life in the midst of desert surroundings.
He went through a variety of jobs during his youth, even travelling to Saudi Arabia to work for two years.
“I did many menial jobs,” he told The National of his early days. “I lost my father when I was young and it was my mother who brought us up in the best possible way.
“She was a home medical doctor for many and treated people with traditional herbal medication. I picked it up from her and still use whenever someone suffers from common illnesses like flu, cough and cold, and for kidney treatment.”
Al Raihe, the second of five boys, spent a lot of time on the family farm and tended the goats, sheep, camels and horses.
“I liked farm animals, particularly horses and camels,” he said. “I had a few Anglo Arabs (horses) and trained them for races. It was purely fun and part of our tradition at that time.
“Actually, I trained horses first and then went into racing camels because it was more attractive with cash prizes. When racing came under Racing Rules, I returned to horse racing.”
Musabah Al Muhairi, who became the UAE champion trainer in 2015, was a neighbour and childhood friend with whom he trained horses.
They later married two sisters from the same family and still live as neighbours having built their own homes.
“We use to go out pulling a harrow attached to our vehicles to prepare a track for the horses to exercise every morning,” Al Raihe said.
“That area was used for training racing camels and people used it to play various games in the evenings. So, we had to use the harrow every morning for a morning work with the horses.
“They were very interesting times, when I think about it now. Musabah was a willing partner and we did everything together.
“When I built a house he, too, bought a property next to mine. His Oasis Stables is next to mine. We are lifelong friends.”
Al Raihe is credited for producing, among others, six-time Group/Grade 1-winning jockey Ahmed Ajtebi, and apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei from his stables.
The veteran Emirati trainer was too humble to acknowledge the role or the influence he had on their development and achievements in the industry.
“They were keen to learn the trade at my stables and what they achieved was through their own hard work and abilities,” he said.
Al Raihe, 72, has trained horses since 1984 when racing was staged before the Emirates Racing Authority was founded and the Racing Rules implemented in the UAE in 1992.
I always believe in teamwork and I’m glad I have a fantastic team around me
Ali Rashid Al Raihe
He received his licence in 1994 and it took him three years to saddle his first winner before going on to win the UAE trainer’s titles three years in a row from 2010 to 2012.
Al Raihe celebrated his first UAE trainer’s title by saddling Al Shemali in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed to win the 2010 $5 million (Dh 18.3m) Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night.
“That remains my best moment to date,” he said. “I have had some good horses and plenty of good moments but Al Shemali’s win can only get better the day I have a runner in the Dubai World Cup itself.”
This year he was hoping to have Purebred Arabian Al Zahir, the two-time winner of the President of the UAE Cup, in the Dubai Kahayla Classic at the Dubai World Cup. Al Zahir is on the reserve list if there are any withdrawals before raceday on March 28.
Al Raihe’s Grandstand Stables has 65 horses in training. He has saddled 16 winners and earned more than Dh3.5m in prize money this season. Overall, he has sent out 434 winners and counting.
He credits his staff for the success he has enjoyed over the years.
“To be successful, you need to have a good team,” he said, pointing at Jilani Siddiqui, who has worked at the Grandstand Stables for 17 years.
“I always believe in teamwork and I’m glad I have a fantastic team around me. I don’t have to keep reminding everyone of what they are expected to do routinely and what they are told of any specific job. Here, they work with minimum supervision.”
Siddiqui, 42, arrived from Pakistan as a work rider, promoted to head lad a couple of years later and then to assistant trainer since 2010.
“Firstly, he’s a kind and caring person who always thinks of the welfare of the others, especially those employed under him,” Siddiqui said.
“He’s punctual at work. He travels everyday from his home in Ajman and the first person to arrive at the stables.
“He’s at the stables at 3am and that means he’s got to leave home around 2am. That’s quite hard for a person of his age but he has set a precedent which we all follow.”
Updated: March 20, 2020 11:41 AM