The Arabian Racing Organisation (ARO) was thrilled with the exciting international field declared for this years’ £80,000 UAE President Cup – UK Arabian Derby (Group 1PA). The mile and a quarter contest which has been run at Doncaster since 2016 as part of the St Leger card, now moves to the earlier slot of August 19. The UAE President Cup is the world’s oldest Arabian race sponsorship series, which this year encompasses 15 races around the world, with the UK’s race being run as the eighth stage.
This year’s race features horses bred in France, Italy and Qatar, trained in the UK, France and Poland, with owners from Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, ridden by French, Irish, Polish and British jockeys. One of whom, the UK’s Joanna Mason, was a three-time lady champion on Arabians before she turned professional.
Top rated on 115 is the Group 2PA winning filly Al Doha who was runner-up to the sport’s newest superstar Al Ghadeer in the French equivalent at Chantilly on the Prix de Diane card in June. Al Ghadeer has paid that form a huge compliment by beating his elders at the highest level when posting an impressive win at Goodwood in the £400,000 Qatar International Stakes earlier this month. Al Doha, along with stablemate, another Group 2PA winning filly in Ghadah, was supplemented for the race ten days ago. They will join trainer Thomas Fourcy’s other runner, the colt, Zamer who has won and been placed at Group 3PA level on his last two starts. Speaking from his base in Royan, Fourcy said,
“Al Doha is in very good form, she’s very easy to ride and has shown great ability on the racetrack before, finishing second to Al Ghadeer, she deserves to win her own Group 1PA.
“Ghadah is making a small comeback, but she’s also an esteemed mare in my stable. She’s a mare who’s generous in the morning in training, she’s in very good form and I find her very good in the morning to tackle the Derby.
“Zamer made a great comeback at La Teste recently behind some very good older horses. He needed to get back into competition and made progress in his last race.
“My three horses are arriving in excellent condition for the Derby and preparation has gone very well for all of them. Now they’ll have to travel well, as the journey is long.”
Al Doha runs in the colours of HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani who won the 2021 edition of the race with Abbes, also trained by Fourcy. His brother HH Sheikh Mohammed, owns Zamer and Mejlad, though they run in the respective colours of his young daughters, HE Sheikha Iman and HE Sheikha Yasmeen. Mejlad is the winner of two conditions races and will be stepping up to Group company for the first time. He is trained by Francois Rohaut who commented:
“Mejlad is a good-looking horse who’s improving every day. He is now mature enough to go against some of the best four-year-olds. The track, distance and ground should suit him.”
Both colts have beaten ZAK Bloodstock’s Nahim, sixth in France’s Arabian Derby, who broke his maiden two weeks ago. He is one of the most experienced entries, having already contested five PA Group races, finishing runner-up in both a Group 2PA and a Group 3PA. His trainer, Xavier Thomas-Demeaulte, who was successful in 2020 with Hattal commented,
“We try the adventure with Nahim because at the end of his last race he showed a great turn of foot and acceleration to beat the leader. I trust his jockey to give him the best race possible. Doncaster’s Derby is the last opportunity for the four-year-olds to run together, so it’s worth trying.”
Entered from Poland is Mansour Ali Suliman Salem Alshamsi’s Central European Derby winner, Bahwan. That race is also run under the UAE President Cup banner and he won the race in a record time by over two lengths in early July. He is trained by Conny Fraisal, who last saw a British racetrack when competing as an amateur jockey in the HH Sheikh Fatima bint Mubarak international lady riders’ series, finishing fourth at Sandown in 2016. Fraisal who arrived on Tuesday to allow her horse to recover from the journey said,
“A mile and a quarter seems to be a good distance for him and in Polish champion jockey Szczepan Mazur, he has a strong partner in the saddle who is doing very well on Arabian horses. Of course, this race will be very tough, and for sure Bahwan has to gain some more experience until he reaches his full potential, but he is worth a try at it. He is the best horse I have ever trained.”
Phil Collington, who has the best record of the current crop of domestic trainers in the race with two third placings in 2021 and 2020, runs Thakeera Al Shahania for Athbah Racing. She was a course winner over a mile on her UK debut in June when ridden by Joanna Mason, who had picked up that ride at the last minute. Collington commented,
“Based on that performance stepping up to a mile and a quarter will suit her even more. We were disappointed with her last run in Belgium, we couldn’t find anything much wrong, maybe it was just an off day, soft ground and going righthanded. She didn’t particularly seem to enjoy the track or the ground in Ostend, but she ran a good time at Doncaster when she won.”
HE Faisal Al Rahmani, Event Manager for the UAE President Cup commented,
“We hope that the success of these races will encourage people to spread the word and bring more new people into the sport. I’m very pleased with how the UAE President Cup series is going, as we have many followers all around the world. Every race produces a star, just like the last winner Abbes. We need to keep this momentum going and to encourage more breeding of Arabian racehorses globally which is one of the series aims.”
Genny Haynes, ARO Chief Executive Officer said,
“Year on year this race crowns a progressive top-level horse, with the last winner, Abbes, going on to win the world’s most valuable race for Arabians, the $2.5 million HH The Amir Sword this February. Though this race is always well supported with top quality French trained runners, we are delighted to welcome our first runner from Poland and we hope that the success of this race series will encourage more owners from the UK to get involved at this level.
“We are also delighted to see top jockeys such as Olivier Peslier, Jean-Bernard Eyquem and Poland’s Szczepan Mazur riding in the race, along with our own Joanna Mason who had such a long and successful association riding under ARO rules as an amateur.”
She concluded, “ARO continues to be extremely grateful to the UAE President Cup Series and to everyone at Doncaster racecourse for their support of our feature race for four-year-olds.”