The Arabian Racing Organisation (ARO) was thrilled with the declarations for the Qatar International Stakes, a Group 1PA to be run over a mile as part of the Qatar Goodwood Festival on Wednesday 27th July. The £400,000 race is the most valuable Arabian race in the UK and the most valuable race over a mile for Arabians in Europe. The race has seen many of the best Arabians in the world compete and last year’s winner Lady Princess, meets First Classs, currently the world’s highest rated mare and gelding, along with Samlla, Europe’s highest rated four-year-old.
Of the 11 declared, there are four individual Group 1 PA winners of an impressive 16 top-level races. Two are Group 2PA winners, whilst four have been PA Group placed and overall, they have won 53 races between them. The prize fund for the Qatar International Stakes is £400,000, with £226,840 to the winner. There will also be a prize of £250 awarded to the groom of the Best Turned Out horse.
Since Lady Princess’s win, she has been a close second in the Qatar Arabian World Cup in Paris, won the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan Jewel Crown in Abu Dhabi and the HH The Amir Sword in Qatar. Trained by Thomas Fourcy for Khalifa bin Sheail Al Kuwari, the diminutive mare has now won seven Group 1PA races and has not finished out of the first three in her 15 starts, virtually all at the highest level.
Of her preparation Fourcy commented: “Lady Princess is in very good form in the mornings. Her return to European racing was easy, winning well for Christophe Soumillon. On Wednesday, her jockey will be Jim Crowley who also knows her well, having ridden her to win the Jewel Crown and Amir Sword.
“We are looking forward to visiting Goodwood again, where she was brilliant last year. She will meet new horses like Hattal, Samlla and First Classs who has shown a lot of ability.”
The American bred First Classs makes his European debut for young French trainer, Jean de Mieulle, having been in the care of his uncle Alban de Mieulle, whilst in Qatar. The five-year-old son of Dahess progressed throughout the winter in the Gulf, winning the Qatar Derby for four-year-olds in December, then Saudi Arabia’s first $1million dollar Turf race for Arabians, the Al Mneefah Cup. In Dubai he gained his first Group 1PA success in their premier race, the Kahayla Classic at the Dubai World Cup in March. Leased by HE Sharida Al Kaabi from his breeders Cre Run Farm, First Classs appears equally effective on turf or dirt from six furlongs to ten and a half furlongs. He will have his regular partner, Ronan Thomas on board, who gained a second leading jockey title in Qatar this season.
Of his new charge de Mieulle commented: “First Classs arrived in my stable at the end of May. From day one he has been very well, he’s a great horse, easy to train, always happy, with beautiful conformation. We have worked him twice on the grass to get him fit for his first race in Europe.
“He is in wonderful condition, let’s hope it will be a great race for him, even though we know that the mile is not his best distance, but Goodwood is a very special racetrack with an uphill finish. We are coming to the UK with confidence, even though it is a very strong field with the best Arabians, let’s hope he runs well, all the lights are green, so fingers crossed.”
Since the entries were published Samlla has cemented his place at the top of the four-year-old tree by winning the Qatar Derby des Pur-Sang Arabes at Chantilly in the colours of his breeder’s daughter, HE Sheikha Reem bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani. The colt’s other top-level wins were the 2021 Al Rayyan Cup (Prix Kesberoy) at Deauville and Doha’s Qatar International Cup over this distance as part of the HH The Amir Sword Festival in February. Third in that race was Djafar, also proven at this trip when winning the Qatar Purebred Arabian Guineas. Providing he showed enough ability, this race has always been a target according to his owner, Abdullah bin Fahad Al Attiyah. He joins Francois Rohaut’s team from Gassim Ghazali in Qatar and will be ridden by Tom Marquand.
Pau based Rohaut, who trained Muraaqib to win this race in 2017, commented: “Samlla travelled to Deauville a week before the race. His preparation in Pau went well. He’s in great shape and the mile of Goodwood should suit him.”
A win for Samlla would be the first success in this race for a four-year-old, though both Prada T and future dual winner Ebraz were placed at that age. He will be one of four French Derby winners to contest the race, but all have been older and only Sir Bani Yas was successful. Trained by Xavier Thomas-Demeaulte, Hattal, won the French Derby in record time at Chantilly in 2020, since then he has been carefully campaigned and is on an eight-race winning streak, which includes three UAE President Cups, one of which was the UK Arabian Derby at Doncaster.
Thierry Delègue, European racing manager for the horse’s owner-breeders YAS Horse Racing Management commented: “Hattal is an exceptional horse whose wins include five Group 1PA’s and two Group 2PA’s.
He has a dream pedigree, 100% from Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed al Nahyan’s breeding by his leading sire Mahabb out of Mizzna, herself winner of six Group 1PA races including the Kahayla Classic. She is already the dam of two multiple Group 1PA winners in Ziyadd and Rabbah De Carrere.
“This will be Hattal’s first time running over a mile and against such opponents, but we can’t wait to see him on the track as he shows very high base speed and looks in sparkling form!”
Also entered from France and making his European debut for a new trainer is Mwarid, owned and bred by Al Shaqab Racing who first won this race in 2016 with Al Mourtajez. Another formerly trained by Alban de Mieulle in Qatar, the six-year-old also has a fantastic pedigree being by world champion sire Amer out of their first Group 1PA winner Al Nachmiya. His two black-type wins this winter include the HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani Trophy over 11 furlongs beating Abbes and Ebraz, though Abbes reversed that form by a head in the Qatar Gold Sword in April.
Now trained by Eric Lemartinel who enjoyed a fine debut season in Qatar, finishing tenth in their trainer’s championship, he said: “Mwarid joined me in Qatar in mid-May from Alban and arrived in France on June 3, his preparation has gone well. The mile is a bit short for him, but at Goodwood you need to stay well, so it will be ok. He’s a nice horse.”
The domestic challenge features the UK’s highest rated mare Bayan Athbah and highest rated gelding Al Kaaser.
Bayan Athbah won two PA Group races over six furlongs and a mile last year. Trained by Phil Collington for her breeders Athbah Racing, she will be partnered by Jean-Bernard Eyquem. Collington commented: “She’s come out of her Newbury race very well, she hadn’t had a run since January and I’m sure she’ll be sharper for Goodwood after that. We’ll try her in a visor now and I think the track and trip at Goodwood will suit her. The ground at Haydock was really quick last year and though she won, I think it was her class that got her there, so if we did get any showers, that would be ideal.”
Five-time leading ARO trainer James Owen has two runners headed by his Racing Club’s Al Kaaser who was sixth last year, along with maiden winner Balqees. She is making her pattern race debut for Gary Allsopp, a newcomer to Arabian racing and renews her winning partnership with 2021 ARO leading jockey, Hollie Doyle. Of their chances he said: “Al Kaaser ran well last season and got a bit of prize money, giving the Club members a great day which I’m sure he’ll do again, but the race looks tough.
“Balqees has given Gary and Andree Allsopp their first success in Arabian racing this season and I’m sure she’ll put up a good showing here and run with credit.”
Leicestershire based handler Peter Hammersley also has two chances, Zayin Arabian’s Zayin Angkor Centurion and Dilmun Racing’s Abiyah Athbah, both of whom have been black-type placed over this trip in the past.
Hammersley said: “Zayin Angkor Centurion missed last year, so we were very pleased with the way he ran on his return at Newbury over six furlongs, and though he blew up, he seems to have retained all his enthusiasm. He’ll be much sharper for that, and the mile will suit him better.
“Abiyah Athbah was very unlucky in her first run at Doncaster, however her latest run at Newbury was excellent, so she’ll go to Goodwood in great heart. Hopefully we won’t get too much rain between now and then as she loves fast ground and then we’d be hoping for a run similar to two years ago when she was just touched off for fourth place. If we can go there and pick up some prize money that would be brilliant, but it’s a strong field.”
HE Issa Bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club Chairman commented: “We are proud of our sponsorship of the Qatar International Stakes as one of our most valuable races and part of our commitment to promote Arabian racing. We are very pleased to see this race, once again, attracting some of the world’s top Arabians and promising to be a fabulous addition to the Qatar Goodwood Festival. I’m sure fans of all forms of racing will be fascinated by the spectacle of the Arabian horses at Goodwood. QREC would like to thank ARO and Goodwood for the excellent coordination and cooperation.”
Genny Haynes, ARO Chief Executive Officer commented: “Yet again the Qatar International Stakes brings some of the world’s best Arabian racehorses to the Sussex Downs for another highly competitive renewal. We are so privileged to be able to showcase this level of Arabian racing to a wider audience.
“ARO is extremely grateful for the ongoing support of our racing by Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, who have been sponsoring this race as part of the Qatar Goodwood Festival since 2015.”
Concluding she said: “We would also like to thank the British Horseracing Authority and everyone at Goodwood and Fontwell racecourses for their assistance, in particular with our overseas runners.”