Ekleel Athbah recorded back-to-back wins in the £25,000 Group 2PA International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR) Trophy this afternoon at Chester on the races’ inaugural run under new sponsorship and at a new track. Ridden on this occasion by Sam Hitchcott, the five-year-old mare won readily by two lengths, from Qatari raider AJS Saaeq, ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, with Zayin Angkor Centurion and Phil Dennis a further length and a half behind in third.
This was Athbah Racing’s third consecutive win in the race formerly known as the Za’abeel International when it was run at Newbury, and a fourth win for trainer Phil Collington. Afterwards a delighted Collington said: “We’re over the moon with her. Sam got off her and said he got a dream run through. Obviously she’ll come on a little bit for it, but I felt I had her in great shape today, I couldn’t have been happier with her in the run up to the race.
“She’s had a few hold-ups due to developmental problems and Fernando Perez her vet and the staff at Baker McVeigh and everyone at home have been instrumental in getting her to the track today. So onwards to Goodwood now.”
Hitchcott commented: “She’s come forward a lot since I last rode her at Newbury. She’s strengthened and is a much better than she was last year and she’s got the class to go further if they go a nice even gallop. She’s very quick filly, if they’d gone a bit slower, she’d have been very keen, but potentially it’s a nice steppingstone for her from coming back after Saudi, heading towards Goodwood.
“That was just a nice piece of work for her in the end, as the splits came for her at the right time. The best thing about her is her turn of foot, I’d imagine AJS Saaeq will come on for that run, if he could have come out a bit earlier, he might have given me more of a race.”
Asked what he felt about riding an Arabian at Chester he concluded, “I was glad she had a hood on going to post, as there’s a lot more happening here than most places, but she took it very well, a turning track like this just stops them thinking too much and keeps their mind on the job.”
Andrew Tulloch, Head of Racing at Chester Racecourse, commented, “Chester Racecourse was delighted to see Arabian racing return to the Roodee for the first time in 19 years by hosting the IFAHR Trophy. We congratulate Ekleel Athbah and winning connections on another success in this black type race and thank the ARO and all the horses, owners, trainers and jockeys for coming to Chester to showcase Purebred Arabian sprinting.”
Brendan Waterworth of Racing Welfare, sponsors of the Best Turned Out Award presented to Deanna Middleton for Abiyah Athbah said, “It’s great to be able to support Arabian racing as part of Racing Staff Week. This was the seventh year of the event, kindly supported by Betfair and we’ve had some great activities around the country including a charity race at Chepstow which ended in a photo finish. Being here today was a fantastic way to round off 90% of the week as we’ve another event at Uttoxeter tomorrow.”
Genny Haynes, ARO Chief Executive Officer said, “ARO warmly congratulates Athbah Racing and all of the Collington team with their second consecutive win with Ekleel Athbah, who is our top-rated UK Arabian. We were thrilled to return to Chester with such a high-profile contest, as it’s always a pleasure to introduce our sport to a new audience. I understand the crowd was just over 20,000 strong and they all seemed to be enjoying our race that concluded the card today.
“We were also pleased to welcome Qatari owner trainer Mohammed bin Hamad Khalifa Al Attiyah to the UK with AJS Saaeq, his first Arabian runner as a trainer here. We hope that his involvement will encourage more international stables to see the UK as a suitable base for a summer campaign.”
Concluding she said, “We thank IFAHR for their sponsorship of this race and Racing Welfare and Chester for supporting our racing this season.”