x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Meydan Group’s China experiment begins at Jinma

The Meydan Group’s bid to help popularise thoroughbred horse racing in south-west China picks up speed Sunday with the staging of the Chengdu Dubai International Cup at Jinma Racecourse.

Ahmed Ajtebi, right, and Royston Ffrench ride during morning trackwork ahead of Sunday's Chengdu Dubai International Cup at Jinma Racecourse on April 4, 2014 in Chengdu, China. The Meydan Group are partnering with Chengdu Municipal, Chengdu Sports Bureau, the Wenjiang District Government and China Gunagsha Group to stage the inaugural Chengdu Dubai International Cup  which will involve horses shipped to China from the UAE.  Neville Hopwood / Getty Images
Ahmed Ajtebi, right, and Royston Ffrench ride during morning trackwork ahead of Sunday's Chengdu Dubai International Cup at Jinma Racecourse on April 4, 2014 in Chengdu, China. The Meydan Group are partnering with Chengdu Municipal, Chengdu Sports Bureau, the Wenjiang District Government and China Gunagsha Group to stage the inaugural Chengdu Dubai International Cup which will involve horses shipped to China from the UAE. Neville Hopwood / Getty Images

CHENGDU // The Meydan Group’s bid to help popularise thoroughbred horse racing in south-west China picks up speed on Sunday with the staging of the Chengdu Dubai International Cup, a five-race programme on the turf at ­Jinma Racecourse in the Wenjiang District.

Trainers licensed by the Emirates Racing Authority will saddle the 60-plus horses expected to compete and they will be ridden by UAE-based jockeys.

The horses running have been shipped to Chengdu from the UAE.

“This is an exciting strategic partnership that we have entered into to assist the Chinese authorities in developing the sport of thoroughbred racing,” said Saeed Al Tayer, the chairman and chief executive of Meydan Group. “With this ground-breaking meeting we have opened up channels of cooperation that will continue to grow between the UAE and China.”

Trainer Doug Watson and jockey Royston Ffrench toured the facilities of the track in the city of more than 7.5 million people and pronounced themselves impressed.

“This is my first visit to the track and, although I knew the facilities such as the stables and the racecourse would be good, they have surpassed my expectations,” Watson said.

“The organisers have done a great job, especially with the stable block, which is on two levels. All the horses seem to have settled in well and are in good health.

“It was amazing to see them looking out from the top widows, as if they didn’t have a care in the world.”

Ffrench said: “I have been here for a few days and facilities are fantastic. The horses arrived fit and have been training well and I am really looking forward to the races on Sunday.

“I have ridden around the world for 17 years and the facilities here compare very favourably with anything I’ve seen.”

The premier race will be the 2,200-metre Chengdu Dubai International Cup. The Wenjiang Meydan Classic over 1,600m is also featured.

The balance of the meet is made up of the 1,200m Wenjiang Sprint, the 1,400m Giangsha Handicap and the 1,600m Meydan Mile.

The event is a partnership between the Meydan Group and the Chengdu Municipal Government, the Chengdu Sports Bureau, the Wenjiang District Government and the China Guangsha Group.

Ahead of the Dubai World Cup, Watson said the trip to China was about passing on expertise.

“We are setting a precedent,” the Red Stables handler said. “It is just another stepping stone and it brings more people into the game. We will show the people in China how it works over here. It is exciting.”

The initiative was announced last year, with the target of an October meeting, but the lack of quarantine protocol between the UAE and China caused a delay.

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