The Arabian Racing Organisation (ARO) looks forward to their opening race of the 2023 season, the Emirates Breeders (0-60) Handicap held over a mile and a quarter, to be run at Bath on Friday May 26 at 6.05pm. Attracting ten runners, this grassroots race features a broad mix of seasoned handicappers and young potential improvers, a theme also reflected by the jockey bookings which includes both amateur and professional riders, an opportunity unique to Arabian racing on the Flat in the UK.
They are headed by James Owen’s four-year-old homebred filly, Mayfair, who looked promising against older horses in her debut season last year. She will be ridden by one of his stable amateurs in Rhea Betts, who recorded her first win for the yard in 2022, along with two places from only three rides under ARO rules. Hoping to repeat her success will be ARO debutant Teagan Padgett on Upstart Crow, who also claims seven pounds. The six-year-old gelding makes his first start for Owen and new owners after a year off and could be one to follow this season as he is a half-brother to two multiple winners, one at Group 3PA level. Completing the Owen challenge will be Heritage Valentino, who won over this trip for Kieran O’Neill at Wolverhampton in September, beating six of these. O’Neill keeps the ride, though it is notable that the horse is without his customary headgear on his seasonal return.
Heritage Valentino is closely matched with the Steve Blackwell owned and trained pair, Aloof and Aljawaaher. Aloof beat Heritage Valentino a head at Chepstow on quick over a mile but didn’t enjoy the Tapeta when they reopposed. Blackwell hopes that David Probert, will be passed fit to ride, with both her winning partners Charlie Price and Josh Bryan side lined with suspensions. Though well into the veteran stage, Aljawaaher more than paid his way last season placing in all his starts from seven furlongs to two miles and a furlong, all for amateur Lewis Saunders, who will be back in the plate on Friday. Despite advancing years Aljawaaher was placed twice behind Aloof last year and also runner-up to Heritage Valentino.
Newly relocated to Derbyshire at the historic Calke Abbey training grounds is Peter Hammersley. He also sends two runners to Bath in Al-Hatab and Belle Angelique. Belle Angelique improved for the addition of a visor on her last outing of 2023, and Hammersley will be hoping there will be more to come this season, she’ll be partnered by George Rooke. Al-Hatab is the second foal out of Altesse Kossack, a prolific winner for Al-Hatab’s part owner-breeder, Julie Kelway. She and Hammersley have secured rising star Billie Loughnane to pilot Al-Hatab in his second season, with the handsome grey looking a much stronger proposition having settled in well to his new home.
Zikada Zayin is another young horse expecting to do better following her first term of racing and will be ridden by Ray Dawson. Homebred by the UK’s leading breeder of 2023, Paul Simmons, Zikada Zayin is the first Arabian to join thoroughbred trainer Mitchell Hunt, who had been assistant to Owen and later to Richard Spencer before setting out on his own in 2021. Kayack and Mulan represent owner-trainers, Jen Harris and Gavin Kelly. Kayack has run well on his reappearance in the past is joined by regular partner, top amateur jockey, Serena Brotherton, whilst Mulan will be ridden by Kelly’s stepdaughter, Kaitlen Robinson, who is also an amateur rider.
Genny Haynes, ARO Chief Executive Officer said, “ARO is delighted to get the season underway with such a competitive race that includes a number of young horses that we would expect to progress in their second year of racing.
“It’s great to note that most of the field are British bred Arabians, who could earn their owner-breeders a useful monetary bonus as part of our UK Breeders Scheme, should they finish in the first three. We are also excited to note that our race will be shown on Sky Sports Racing, enabling our sport to gain a wider audience this season.”