jockey entertains guests during the gala dinner of the H H the Emir 23rd International Equestrian Sword Festival in Doha yesterday. The three-day H H the Emir 23rd International Equestrian Sword Festival will end today. RIGHT: Guests attending the gala dinner.
Doha: Three days of top-class horseracing events being contested as part of the H H the Emir 23rd International Equestrian Sword Festival reach their climax today, when the younger generation is put to the test in the season’s two most prestigious races staged at the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club (QREC), both run over 2,400m
Qatar’s fastest rising star Dubday bids to retain his unbeaten record in Doha in the Group 1 H H the Emir’s Trophy for thoroughbreds, worth two million riyals, while the programme closes with several horses with huge potential taking a step up in grade in the Group 1 H H the Emir’s Sword for Purebred Arabians, worth QR3m.
Among those challenging for top honours in the Emir’s Sword are the five-year-old stablemates Assy, whose record of seven consecutive wins from eight outings includes the H H the Emir’s Trophy at the meeting last year, and Al Anga, unbeaten in her last five races.
Both are owned by H H Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani and trained by Julian Smart, and take on each other for the first time as they represent the combination who won the race in 2012 with Aziz ASF.
Assy continued his winning run by landing the Qatar Gold Sword over 2,200m for Thursday’s rider Christophe Lemaire on 6 February, when Dahash, who tackles his again, finished fourth.
Two races earlier at the same meeting Al Anga, ridden by Harry Bentley, kept up her charge through the ranks by winning the Qatar Gold Trophy over 2,000m by threequarters of a length from Nashmi.
Like Nashmi, Vetlana De Faust, who dead-heated for third, half a length behind, Rathowan, who was a further length away fifth, and Farraaha, who finished seventh, all renew rivalry with Al Anga.
Two newcomers to racing in Qatar – Djet Taouy and Farh - can be expected to throw down a strong challenge.
Djet Taouy, owned by the Royal Cavalry of Oman, proved himself one of the top horses in Europe last year, earning an official rating of 122 with a good second to Tabarak at Doncaster and an equally meritorious fourth placing behind Mushrae at Longchamp on the -Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe card.
Farh also ran at Longchamp but the day before the Arc, when she sandwiched a third placing in a Group 1 race over 2,000m between two wins in the French provinces.
She is owned by Al Shaqab Racing and will be ridden by retained rider Frankie Dettori, who earlier takes over from Harry Bentley for his first association with the owner’s newest purchase, Dubday.
Bred in Britain, where he was in training but never raced as a two-year, Dubday was sold to an owner in Germany and showed sufficient ability as a three-year-old to be purchased by Sheail bin Khalifa Al Kuwari for €200,000 at the pre-Arc bloodstock sale in France, and he has been a revelation in Qatar.
He won the Qatar Derby over 2,000m on his first start in December, and then showed himself to be worthy of top billing by beating more experienced horses, several of whom were rated more highly, in the Qatar Gold Trophy over 2,200m on February 6.
Dubday’s nearest challenger last time, beaten threequarters of a length, was Very Nice Name, who was given a patient ride by Olivier Peslier on only his second outing in Doha after a two-month break at the end of a busy overseas campaign that culminated in a disappointing run in the Arc.
Very Nice Name won the Emir’s Trophy last year, to complete a run of five wins, which also enabled his connections, the Umm Qarn stable run by Alban de Mieulle, to achieve a record by taking the festival’s two biggest Group 1 races in the same year for the first time.
Although Very Nice Name has not won since, his efforts in the rest of 2013 were rewarded with third place in the Dubai Sheema Classic behind St Nicholas Abbey, second place to Japanese superstar Orfevre at Longchamp, and a rating of 118 in the World’s Qatar Racehorse Rankings.
A number of those beaten by Dubday in the Qatar Gold Trophy have been given other options at the Festival, but Polperro (sixth), the consistent Peter Anders (seventh), Testudo (eighth), Loi (tenth), Zarkiyr (13th) and Clean Bowled (last of 15) all renew rivalry.
Dubday has remained with leading trainer Jassim Ghazali since his sale, and jockey Bentley switches to stablemate Willie The Whipper, who was also bought at the pre-Arc sale, for 120,000gns out of Ann Duffield’s stable in England.
Willie The Whipper, who won two of his eight races and showed his best form when second in a Listed race before being exported, finished seventh to Dubday on his Qatar debut, but subsequently won a handicap over 2,100m, with Dubawi King, who has been second and fourth in the last two Emir’s Trophy races but is on a losing run stretching back to December 2011, third.
Quel Avantage, who was seventh behind Willie The Whipper on his second outing since arriving in Qatar from the French stable of his trainer Francis-Henri Graffard, was entered for the race at last week’s supplementary stage.
Mainsail, a half-brother to the Arc winner Rail Link, makes his Doha debut for trainer Majid Safedeenafter winning three of his 12 races and finishing 2nd in the Group 3 Prix Messidor for owner Mubarak Saeed Aljafali Al Naimi.The Peninsula