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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Satish Seemar at home in serene surroundings of Zabeel Stables

Indian has been at the helm of the Dubai stable for nearly 30 years. Amith Passela caught up with him to talk about his time working for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and his hopes for the future

Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Nestled in between the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest city's on Earth lies a piece of real estate that seems a world away.

The serene and beautiful spiraling 200-acre Zabeel Stables sits on some of the world's most prime land. It boats the Dubai skyline, including the Burj Khalifa, as its backdrop.

The man at the helm since its inception 27 years ago is Satish Seemar.

“It’s an extra ordinary place for the horses,” the four-time UAE champion trainer told The National.

“When I say extra ordinary I mean to say internationally. It’s one of the most practical and beautiful stables in the world for me. It’s horse friendly although we are in the middle of the town.”

The stables are in keeping with the emirate's opulent chain of luxury five-star hotels. The horses get fresh air, plenty of sunlight and have access both ways in the stalls. It has a beautiful 100-metre swimming pool, a spa, an 1,800m Oval track, three large paddocks and six smaller ones. It can accommodate around 150 horses but the trainer maintains around 130.

Recalling his first visit to the stables, the Indian trainer said he was "really honoured" to walk around with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“The historic fact is Sheikh Mohammed himself designed the stables and I believe the Dubai City’s phasing was a blueprint from here,” he said.

“I have seen the skyline change on a daily basis. I still see it develop around us. And at the same time, we haven’t been disturbed by the development around us."

Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Seemar, the youngest in a family of seven, worked with the legendary American trainer Monty Roberts, also known as the "Horse Whisperer", at the Taylor Made Farms in Nicholasville, Kentucky, a leading thoroughbred breeding farm and consignor.

An all-round sportsman who represented India Youth in field hockey, and athletics and football at school level, Seemar received his Bachelor’s degree in History from St Stephen’s College in New Delhi, before completing his Masters in Equine Science in California.

“More than the book knowledge, working for Monty Roberts to learn horsemanship, and moving on to Taylor Made Farms to learn the business from the best, was where I learnt the trade,” he said.

Seemar first met Sheikh Mohammed in 1989 in Kentucky. A few month later, he was offered the top job at Zabeel. Seemar said being asked to work under the guidance of one of horse racing’s most respected and leading figures was akin to being asked to work in IT under Bill Gates’ watchful eye.

“If you are in horse industry you can’t go anywhere above the opportunity I was offered,” he said.

“So, it was an honour to be selected in the first place, and it’s an honour to still be on the job."

Seemar says he has an excellent working relationship with the Dubai Ruler.

“Firstly, it’s the passion and the love for the horses, and secondly the business and respect for my boss,” he said.

“In the horseracing business, His Highness has done so much globally. You always think you want to do better and better for him.

“When I was handed this beautiful stables I wasn’t even qualified or experienced, and that makes a lot of difference to me.

“I was in a good place to be in Kentucky when His Highness first met me but still he could have chosen the best of the best in the business instead of me."

Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

According to Seemar, the basic design of the stable has remained true to its original blueprint but the place has "matured".

“As much as I love horses, I love plants and trees. And I have been personally involved in the landscaping,” he said.

“It has brought birds and other animals to live around the area. That sort of compliments the horses because they get as close to nature.

“There are over a dozen species of birds that have made their home here. We see beautiful migratory birds stop-over for a week or two, we have a family of desert fox living in the middle of the track.”

Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Satish Seemar, one of the longest serving and most successful racehorse trainers in the UAE at Zabeel stables, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Seemar was the first UAE-based trainer to win races in England and France. He saddled Dayflower to win the Middleton Stakes at York in 1993 and Way To Go, a Purebred Arabian, at the Rabdan in France in 1994.

After nearly three decades in the UAE Seemar has plenty of memories, but says the day Sheikh Mohammed announced the first Dubai World Cup still holds a special place. On March 26, 1993, Nad Al Sheba Racecourse hosted the inaugural Dubai International Jockeys' Challenge (DIJC) and it paved the way for the first Dubai World Cup in 1996.

“It was less than six years after racing was first staged in the UAE under Racing Rules,” he said.

“The other was taking Day Flower to race in England when I didn’t have any experience. That was special. Then of course the construction of Meydan, a unique racecourse.”

Like every trainer, Seemar's dream is to one day win the prestigious Dubai World Cup, the second richest race in the world.

“That’s an every year thing,” he said. “We all want to win that. It will happen if we get the right horse. It doesn’t matter what you think about your horses, they can change positive or negative overnight.”

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