By Tom Peacock Champions of three Group One races will return to defend their crown at Newbury on Sunday in what is being considered the most exciting afternoon of Arabian racing ever held in Britain.
The Dubai International Arabian Races, the entirety of which is being shown on Racing UK, is offering £200,000 of prize-money and has attracted 26 overseas runners among the 86-strong entry.
The feature Group One, the Shadwell Dubai International Stakes, sees last year’s wide-margin winner Muraaqib pitted against the 2015 hero Gazwan. The former, trained in France by Francois Rohaut and owned by the meeting’s founder and sponsor Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is to be ridden by Jim Crowley and proved his wellbeing when landing a top event at Deauville in May.
There was a suggestion after Deauville that Muraaqib might head to the Qatar International Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival next week. After the retirement of world champion Al Mourtajez three weeka ago, however, a repeat bid was considered more significant.
Olivier Peslier flies in for the mount on the Netherlands representative Lightning Bolt.
Meanwhile Sheikh Hamdan’s Radames, who made most of the running in last year’s Jebel Ali Racecourse Za'abeel International, is reunited with Dane O’Neill for the six-furlong dash.
The third Group One, the Shadwell Arabian Stallions Hatta International Stakes, sees the return of another French star in Sylvine Al Maury, who bolted up by six lengths twelve months ago.
The Arabian Racing Organisation’s director, Genny Haynes, said: “This day is historic, having been run as early as 1984. Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s creation has now become the most respected day of Arabian racing run worldwide and I have to say the card is fantastic.”
Entrance to the meeting, which attracted more than 9,000 last year, is free and there will be a host of goodie bags for families coming in, prize draws and best-dressed competitions.
Mirza Al Sayegh, chairman of the raceday committee, has been organising a competition for local schools, whose children have been painting designs on giant model horses.
“We want to appeal to the younger generations, and hope they can feel the love for the horse,” he said.