Muraaqib enters the winner’s enclosure after his classy win
James Burn reports from Newbury’s Dubai International Arabian Races on Sunday when a new star emerged
Worldwide interest at the Dubai International Arabian Races at Newbury on Sunday was one of the key themes of the meeting, but it was business as usual for the sport’s biggest supporter as the blue and white silks of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum flashed by the winning post in four of the eight races.
In 2014 13 raiders lined up for one of the most prestigious meetings in the Arab racing calendar and there were 12 last year. That number was more than double on Sunday when 26 horses – representing six countries – joined in the fun in front of a bumper crowd in Berkshire.
It is a figure commentator and Arab racing enthusiast Gary Capewell reckons is the largest since he began covering the event in 2004 and it doesn’t take long for Italy’s Urge Di Gallura to strike in the Emirates Equestrian Federation International Stakes.
“He’s a very good horse,” says winning trainer Endo Botti. “This gives me great satisfaction.”
Lancaster loving it
Also satisfied is Richard Lancaster, stud director at His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Shadwell breeding operation and racing manager of his Arab racing interests.
“Look at the crowd,” he beams, spinning around to the packed enclosures after the eight-year-old Radames has strolled to an easy win under Dane O’Neill in the Jebel Ali Racecourse Za’Abeel International Stakes, race four and the first Group 1 of the afternoon.
“The quality is here and the Italian winner was a great success because he’d won a prep race in Italy for today so wins a bonus as well.
“Sheikh Hamdan wants to get as many people as possible involved in Arab racing and this is a great way to do it.
“I’m pinching myself a bit because it’s always nice to have a winner, but to win one of the main races is very special.”
Urge Di Gallura strikes for Italy
Things would get even better. Radames is the owner-breeder’s third winner of the afternoon following Foaad and Jamaayil, who was also ridden by O’Neill.
“It’s fantastic to have a winner for the boss today,” says the rider.
“He’s a great supporter and we all just want to do well for him because he’s so enthusiastic and so passionate about.”
‘Go on big fella’
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s enthusiasm for the day is matched, and maybe even surpassed, by Derek ‘Tommo’ Thompson, revelling in his role as roving reporter.
Ducking in and out of the Activity Hub, which includes Henna tattoo artists, face painting and other childrens’ activities, he is not short of candidates to get the famous Tommo treatment.
“I’m going to go before the mums and dads of the kids I haven’t picked kill me,” he says with tongue in cheek, of course, after judging one kids’ competition.
The best-dressed lady heat goes to Jayde Butler, who wins a trip to Dubai and some jewellery, while the children of Englefield Primary come out on top after their painted replica horse was thought best by His Excellency Mirza Al Sayegh, who describes the day as “very close to Sheikh Hamdan’s heart”.
They win £2,500 with £2,000 going to the runner-up Beedon C of E Primary School and £1,500 to the third St John the Evangelist Infant and Nursery School. The remaining 11 schools each pocket £1,000.
The painted horse that won Englefield Primary £2,500
It is soon time for the Shadwell Dubai International Stakes, the £55,000 of the afternoon and the appearance of the fixture’s star turn.
Trained in France by Francois Rohaut and ridden by Francois-Xavier Bertras – the Foaad combination – Muraaqib was the world’s top-rated juvenile last year and is expected to take all the beating.
And he does just that, recording a comfortable victory that left connections purring.
“The horse idled in front but did it so easily,” adds Lancaster with a smile as wide as Newbury’s home straight.
“With a stronger pace he would’ve been better. He’s a lovely horse and only four. He’s a homebred, which is the other good thing and obviously has a lot of ability.
“I think he’s one of the most exciting horses we’ve bred and could possibly rank alongside the greats.”
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