By Geoffrey Riddle
Female trainers ruled the Dubai International Arabian races at Newbury on Sunday when Karen Van Den Bos and Elizabeth Bernard prevailed in the two feature Group One races.
Van Den Bos saddled the ultra-game Lightning Bolt to strike in the Shadwell Dubai International Stakes under Olivier Peslier, just 35 minutes after Sylvine Al Maury had shrugged off a long layoff to hold on in the soft ground in the Hatta International Stakes.
Bubbling under the surface of this showcase for Purebred Arabian racing and the United Arab Emirates was the current political standoff between Qatar and Dubai.
The two nations are at loggerheads and it was Qatar’s Lwsail who prevailed in the other Group One event when the four-year-old put ten lengths on his rivals to flutter the Qatari standard in the Jebel Ali Racecourse Za'abeel International Stakes. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the patron and founder of this day for 34 years, failed to land a blow across the eight races.
Lightning Bolt led for much of the £58,000 ten-furlong contest and held off the late thrust of 2015 winner Gazwan and Richard Mullen by half a length.
“I named him after Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth,” Van Den Bos said, before performing the signature celebration of the eight-time Olympic Gold-winning sprinter.
“When he was born and I saw his confirmation and I thought, ‘wow this is something really special’. He is tall and has a lot of power.”
Lightning Bolt, who is trained on a beach in Holland, could well return to England for a Group One Purebred Arabian Race at Chelmsford on August 12.Lightning Bolt became the first horse from Holland to win the Dubai International Stakes (Racingfotos)
Gazwan will not renew rivalry, however, and will be aimed at the Qatar Arabian World Cup at Chantilly on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Card at Chantilly in October.
“He has run an absolute blinder as he hasn’t run since April,” trainer Julian Smart said. “His main aim is the Qatar Arabian World Cup. I wasn’t confident today but he has run a blinder.”
Smart also had news on Ebraz, who runs in the Group One Qatar International Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday, which is worth £400,000.
Ebraz caused a huge upset in Qatar in February when he overturned Al Mourtajez, last season’s Goodwood winner in the $US1million HH Emir’s Sword.
“This horse is scarily good,” Smart said. “To do what he did in Qatar to beat Al Mourtajez, one of the best there has ever been, it is scary how good he can be.
“One of the biggest problems is the mile at Goodwood but with the long straight we should be okay.”
The determined performances of Lightning Bolt and Sylvine Al Maury belied the reputation of Purebred Arabians, who can occasionally let slip that they have a mind of their own.
This was for all to see in the Emirates Equestrian Federation International Stakes when Tadhg O’Shea was powerless to prevent Shomoos Athbah throwing away almost certain victory in the dying strides of the Group Two contest.
Shomoos Athbah and O'Shea had headed Riyam and Ellie Mackenzie coming in to the final furlong but with 50 yards to go the inexperienced three-year-old filly virtually pulled herself up to hand back the advantage and the £12,500 first prize to Riyam.
Shomoos Athbah was matched at 1.01 on the exchanges but Mackenzie never felt she would lose.
“Honestly, I thought to myself ‘I cannot come second’,” Mackenzie said.
“My horse dug so deep and just showed what an amazing animal he is and battled back and made it happen for me, I am so pleased.
“The thing with Arabian racing is that everybody is so good to each other.
“Everybody is pleased for each other when they have winners and everybody helps each other and that is what makes it such a special sport.”
Earlier in the day one observer had dubbed the £193,000 card as the "Royal Ascot of Purebred Arabian racing". If that was a grandiose comparison, it would be fair to say that horses had at least travelled from all over the world to participate in Berkshire.
Van Den Bos also saddled Mirabella to finish third behind Sylvine Al Maury and French raider Karimah in the Hatta International Stakes and Maolie to third behind Riyam.
Gazwan hails from Qatar and is based in Lambourn and Montrag, who was three and a half lengths adrift of Gazwan in the International Stakes also travelled over from France. Pronto T hit the mark early in the day for Holland in the Emirates NBD International Stakes, while Phil Collington and and Peter Hammersley bookended the card for Britain when Cheik Roque landed the opening Emirates Premier Handicap Stakes and Unity Belle won the UAE Embassy Handicap Stakes.
“It is good that people see that it is not only the big boys who win here, but other horses can do it too," Van Den Bos added.
"Sheikh Hamdan is doing a great job sponsoring here. I am so grateful that he is making all of this possible and is supporting Arabian racing."
There were a reported 8,000 racegoers.