x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Women in Dubai World Cup Carnival out to show they can compete

Jockeys, trainers and owners proving equestrian arena not just a man's world

Trainer Gillian Duffield struck a blow for women in horse racing when she saddled No Risk Al Maury to victory in the first race on the opening night at Meydan Racecourse in January 2010. Nicole Hill / The National
Trainer Gillian Duffield struck a blow for women in horse racing when she saddled No Risk Al Maury to victory in the first race on the opening night at Meydan Racecourse in January 2010. Nicole Hill / The National

In our enlightened age it is still notable that women remain massively under-represented in horse racing.

Ask any woman involved in the sport, though, and most of them simply want to be seen as just another cog in the wheel. There are no Pussy Riot statements being made here, thank you.

Hayley Turner, the Group 1-winning jockey who is riding for Godolphin at Al Quoz, is one such example, and Sarah Dawson, the Northern Irish trainer set for her first runner in Dubai on Thursday, is another.

Dawson will put forth her first major international challenger when Abstraction takes on 15 others in the US$175,000 (Dh642,757) handicap staged across five furlongs that opens the six-race card at Meydan Racecourse.

Abstraction provides the sort of background story that helps contribute to the feel-good fabric of racing.

Abstraction is owned by Natalia Lupini, an Italian who purchased the four-year-old colt in person at the Goresbridge sales in May 2012 for a mere €6,000 (Dh30,113) when she was still a student.

It was the first racehorse she had bought, and she has more than doubled her outlay with prize money from two wins and an eye-catching run to fifth by Abstraction in a Group 3 at the Curragh in August.

Dawson is in just her fourth season as a trainer, having taken the plunge at just the wrong time.

“I trained point-to-pointers and before that I was involved in eventing,” Dawson said. “I wanted to get into training thoroughbreds, but I hit the global recession, which was terrible timing and we were just keeping our heads above water. The prize money in Dubai is a big incentive.”

Dawson is not the only woman trainer with a runner at Meydan tomorrow. Pia Brandt, based in France, has L’Amour De Ma Vie, who arrived in Dubai last week, ready to take her chance in the Group 2 Cape Verdi.

It appears to be a tall order, but as a group women trainers have a decent strike-rate since the racecourse first opened its doors for business.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s Purebred Arabian trainer Gill Duffield will go down in history after she saddled No Risk Al Maury to win under Richard Hills the Al Maktoum Challenge, the first race on the opening night of Dubai’s billion-dollar facility in January 2010.

No Risk Al Maury followed up that performance two months later and Eve Johnson Houghton, the British trainer, added to her two successes at Nad Al Sheba when sending out Judd Street in the same season.

No Risk Al Maury won again in 2011, as did Across The Rhine for Tracy Collins, who has entered Captain Joy for this season’s Dubai World Cup Carnival.

It was in 2012, however, that Cirrus Des Aigles’ win in the Dubai Sheema Classic for Corine Barande-Barbe provided women trainers with their biggest success since 2004. That year, Eva Sundbye became the first woman to train a winner at the Carnival when Damachida won the Sandown International Stakes.

Last season, women moved to the fore throughout the world. From Kathy Ritvo saddling Mucho Macho Man to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Gai Waterhouse triumphing in the Melbourne Cup with Fiorente to Criquette Head-Maarek training Treve to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, they ruled the biggest races.

Step forward Dawson and Brandt – the momentum is with you.

sports@thenational.ae