The late winter, early spring season of Thoroughbred racing’s international calendar in the Northern Hemisphere is now is full swing, with a congregation of tracks in the Middle East proving more than able hosts. Once the exclusive reserve of Dubai, there is now a myriad of festivals providing quality races and high times in the region.
This weekend the spotlight falls on Qatar, and the 23 international horses taking part in the six-race the US$2.95 million HH The Amir Sword Festival at Al Rayyan Racecourse on today and tomorrow (February 21-22).
The fixture has not only attracted some fine equine athletes, but many of Europe’s elite riders, such as world #21 Oisin Murphy, the reigning British champion, who will ride the Curlin colt Standard Deviation, trained in the U.S. by world #3 Chad Brown, in Saturday’s Thoroughbred highlight, the US$1 million HH The Amir Trophy.
There is also a plethora of French stars in the saddle, including no less than five past and present French champions - Maxime Guyon, Christophe Soumillon, Pierre-Charles Boudot, Stephane Pasquier and Olivier Peslier - not to mention two men, Adrie de Vries and Eddie Pedroza, who have landed the riding title in Germany.
Another German G1 winner on show will be last year’s HH The Amir Trophy winner, French King, who is trained in France by Alex Pantall.
Sponsorship for the event has also had a shot in the arm, with Al Hazm and Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club (QREC) announcing a continuation of their commercial partnership. Al Hazm will once again be a sponsor of HH The Amir''s Sword, the million-dollar Purebred Arabian feature on Saturday.
''We would like to thank [Al Emadi Enterprises CEO] Mr Mohamed al-Emadi for being a sponsor for HH The Amir''s Sword. He has been supporting horse racing at QREC for long. HHThe Amir''s Sword is the most valuable race in Qatar. For us, as Qataris, everyone wants to win the Sword from His Highness. I think this shows how much Mr al-Emadi wants to sponsor because it is a precious prize. He sees there is big value in sponsoring the event,” said QREC CEO Nasser Sherida al-Kaabi.