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Why Arabian Gulf states are horse racing’s oyster

The year 2020 saw the innovation of the $20 (Dh73.46) million Saudi Cup, claiming the crown of the World’s Richest Race

File photo for illustrative purposes
File photo for illustrative purposes

By Jacquie Doyle, Special to Khaleej Times

Published: Mon 21 Feb 2022, 9:01 PM

Last updated: Tue 22 Feb 2022, 2:16 PM

Wind the clock back to this time three years ago, 2019, where we did not yet know about Covid-19, but what we did know and relished was the pleasure of the great Dubai World Cup race day.

So much has changed in the world since then, not least of which is our joy of the late winter race meetings on offer in the Arabian Gulf countries.

The year 2020 saw the innovation of the $20 (Dh73.46) million Saudi Cup, claiming the crown of the World’s Richest Race.

The speed at which this event has embedded itself into the International Racing Calendar as a permanent fixture is proof that if the money is on offer, the big stars will turn out in force to the party.

Despite the travel difficulties of a world pandemic, Saudi has hosted us for two strongly contested years and are on the brink of their third.

Truly, a testament to the organisers and competitors alike.

But the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is not the only country moving swiftly forwards with their horse racing ambitions.

This winter we have seen Bahrain set out on a similar pathway, albeit at a more tender level prize money wise. The new Turf Series has been very well supported by overseas Owners and Trainers alike and is set to grow in significance next year.

Qatar has been welcoming international horses to the February Emir Trophy and Sword race meeting for a number of years and many of us have enjoyed the nip across from Dubai to Doha for three days of mid-season fun, festivities and racing.

It would appear to me that Qatar has suffered a little with the attraction of taking horses to Bahrain instead. Indeed, the numbers of overseas competitors were well below recent levels. I would envisage the authorities taking steps to rectify this for next year.

For so long the only alternative to a cold, wet English winter has been the sand dunes and blue skies of glorious Dubai. But no more as we can now select from Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi or even better, a mix of all four. The Arabian Gulf is a racehorse Oyster !

A spin off resulting from this is without doubt an increase in the buoyancy of the “second-hand” horse market. The end of season auctions has seen a healthy upturn both in prices and clearance rates of racehorses no longer making their presence felt at the lower level of the United Kingdom racing with its dire prize money levels. The ripple effect is being passed on down to the breeders and consignors at the yearling sales too, with a very healthy market for a product that has increased longevity and a growth in its resale value.

Definitely a win-win situation all round and more sunshine and fun to be had for everyone.

The author is a Derby-winning trainer and the mother of world-renowned jockeys, James and Sophie Doyle.