The Arabian Racing Organisation (ARO) was delighted that all nine entries have declared for the Wathba Stallions Cup (0-55) Handicap Stakes, to be run over a mile and a half on Wednesday 20th July. The £4,000 race had originally been scheduled to take place at Bath, but was moved to Southwell’s All Weather course due to concerns over the drying ground during the UK’s heatwave. The Wathba Stallions race series supports the grassroots of the sport and with almost half the field partnered by Amateur jockeys, riding for owner-trainers, it is a great example of the series aims.
Making his handicap debut at the top of the weights is the four-year-old Alghazaal. Partnered by former ARO leading novice jockey Charlie Price, he comes from the stable of current leading ARO trainer Phil Collington. Price who has since turned professional riding mainly over jumps, is still having a great season with Arabians and heads the ARO leading jockeys’ table. He will carry the colours of Phil’s daughter Sophie, who has caught the Arabian racing bug from her parents. At the other end of the age spectrum is Steve Blackwell’s Aljawaaher. The 13-year-old has been in vintage form this season under a new partnership with young amateur Lewis Saunders making the frame in all his starts over a range of distances.
Both those geldings, as well as the Connally’s mare, Labwah were bred by Shadwell Arabians, whose influence is still being felt despite their departure from the sport. Labwah has been a slow developer, but a try at this stamina test for the first time could see her and her amateur partner Kelly Bostock get more involved. Also from the amateur ranks is Kaitlen Robinson who rides her parents Mulan. The pair have been successful twice before in a lower grade and though Covid brought a halt to their progress, Robinson’s allowance could help, as the mare’s stamina is proven.
Another young amateur to embrace Arabian racing is Paddy Barlow. Studying to be a vet at Nottingham University, Barlow still finds time to ride out at trainer Peter Hammersley’s and rode for leading Irish trainer Jessica Harrington in the Horseware Student Derby at Ireland’s famous Curragh last year. He maintains his ongoing partnership with Belle Angelique. Also trained by Hammersley is Bin Al Reeh, already a Wathba Stallions Cup winner last season, the eight-year-old has made the frame twice this year over shorter and will be partnered by Jack Deurn.
Five-time ARO leading trainer James Owen field the brothers Heritage Vadel and Heritage Valentino for their owner and part-breeder Mrs Skepper. Hertiage Vadel will have Owen regular Rhiain Ingram on board, whilst Heritage Valentino will be partnered by Mark Crehan who had had a win and two places from three rides for Owen to date. Both are dropping down in grade in the UK and have first-time headgear on. Completing the line-up at the bottom of the handicap is Gerko De Tenelle for Darren Plumb and ridden by George Rooke. He was last seen when finishing fourth behind a stablemate in another Wathba Stallions Cup at Bath earlier last month.
Genny Haynes, ARO Chief Executive Officer commented: “ARO is delighted that all the entries stood their ground despite a last-minute change of venue for this race and we look forward to an exciting. We thank the Sheikh Mansoor Festival for their support this season, particularly of races at this level which are the lifeblood of our grassroots sport.
“We also thank ARC, Bath racecourse, Southwell racecourse and the British Horseracing Authority for acting in horseracing’s best interests by moving the meeting and accommodating our race within the rescheduled fixture during this extreme weather.