Arabian racing specialist Debbie Burt casts an eye across the likely stars on show at the latest addition to the Purebred Arabian firmament.
The addition of the Obaiya Arabian Classic for Purebred Arabians to the Saudi Cup card was received with great excitement by the global Arabian racing community. To be run over 2000m (1m 2f) on dirt, the race is open to horses aged four years and upwards, who will compete for the USD$1,900,000 prize fund, currently making it the most valuable race of its’ type in the world.
With a USD $1,140,000 first prize, this new race joins the growing international programme of million-dollar-plus races for Purebred Arabians, such as the Dubai Kahayla Classic, the Qatar Arabian World Cup that precedes the Prix de l’Arc de Triom, Qatar’s HH The Amir Sword and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Jewel Crown.
Together this prestigious quartet forms the most coveted Group 1 PA races in the Purebred Arabian international calendar – a rarefied club which the Obaiya Arabian Classic now joins. As a new race, however, it must earn the top-level status that its’ prize deserves over several years’ results – an eventuality which seems inevitable.
At the first entry stage, the Obaiya Arabian Classic attracted 60 entries from the main Arabian horse racing nations in Europe and the Gulf States. The final field of 14 runners will be by invitation of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia. HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, Chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, has announced that at least two places in each of the seven international races would be reserved for Saudi-trained horses.
Heading that list of locally-trained horses is Saudi Arabia’s most successful Arabian of recent times, Tallaab Al Khalediah (main image). The striking grey has won the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz World Cup, Saudi Arabia’s premier international race for Arabians, three times!
Owned by HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Tallaab Al Khalediah’s greatest achievement outside of his home country was to win the 2018 Dubai Kahayla Classic, a first for a Saudi-bred, -owned and -trained horse.
The local hero’s biggest danger is expected to be the Saudi-owned Mashhur Al Khalediah. Owned by HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Ahmad bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s Athbah Stud, he is handled by leading UK Arabian trainer, Phil Collington.
Collington is no stranger to racing in Saudi Arabia as this will be his third winter season there with Athbah’s Arabians. Mashhur Al Khalediah is a progressive horse who will be coming in to the race on the back of his recent victory in the valuable Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Jewel Crown. To date he has been seen to best effect on Turf over a mile, however the five-year-old has won on the all-weather surface in Belgium and over 2000m on the turf in France. He may be joined by his stablemate, Mehdaaf Athbah, who has twice been Group 1PA placed at this distance in the UK and France.
Another product of the Al Khalediah Stud with a strong chance is Aatebat Al Khalediah. Owned by Fahad Mohammed Alorani, she joined former UAE champion trainer, Ali Rashid Al Rayhi in Dubai for the current winter season. The nine-year-old mare took well to the Dirt at Meydan, placing second on her UAE debut in the Bani Yas (Gr2PA) and following up with a win in the Madjani Stakes (Gr3PA). She could re-oppose a number of those who finished behind her, including the second, Ziyadd. Owned and bred by HH Sheikh Mansoor’s YAS Horseracing Management, he was a Group 1PA winner on Dirt at Meydan over this distance in 2018 and placed in the same race last year.
Following the achievements of the horses of their Royal Cavalry, private owners in Oman have been encouraged to compete both domestically and abroad. Their privately-owned horses have already been placed at the highest level and their appetite for success has seen some notable purchases take place. One of these has been Spaghetti, who is currently the leading Purebred Arabian in Oman. A proven Dirt performer, he was seven-time winner from a mile to 2200m when in Qatar. Last month, reunited with his former partner Harry Bentley, he was the winner of Oman’s most important race for older horses, His Majesty’s Cup, for his new owner, Al Bashair Stables.
Winning on the same card was Shabah, who took the Citizen’s Cup, also run over a mile on dirt, propelling him to second in Oman’s table of leading horses. Owned and trained by Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Marzooqi, Shabah is a full-brother to the recently retired seven-time PA Group 1 winner, Gazwan. Also in Omani ownership is Chaddad, who was second to Tallaab Al Kahlediah in the Kahayla Classic. Third to Mashhur Al Khalediah in the Jewel Crown in November, that effort may have taken the edge of him when well behind in the Madjani Stakes on his latest start and he could do better after a break.
Tunisia also has a long tradition of breeding and racing Purebred Arabians, though until recently their overseas forays have been limited to neighbouring Morocco and Libya. The French-trained, Libyan-owned Hajres has been a breakthrough standard bearer for Tunisian breeding, winning PA Group races in Morocco, France and the UK.
Though most of the Arabian racing in France takes place on turf, they are not afraid to campaign overseas on dirt surfaces. One recent winner who may be an ideal candidate for the Obaiya Purebred Classic is Aoun. Trained by Antoine de Watrigant in the South West of France for HH Sheikh Mansoor’s YAS Horseracing Management, the five-year-old will have had an ideal preparation having won the President of the UAE Cup in November, run over 2100m on dirt in Morocco. Also representing the UAE could be last year’s Kahayla Classic third Amwaj, trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Fourth on her reappearance in the Madjani Stakes to Aatebat Al Khalediah, her trainer is adept at readying a horse for the top races.
With Supplementary entries to close on February 18, the Purebred Arabian racing world eagerly awaits to see which overseas challengers will be confirmed and who will represent Saudi Arabia in the Obaiya Arabian Classic.
The history of Purebred Arabian racing in the Kingdom is well established and the addition of the this exciting new race to the ambitious Saudi Cup card is a natural extension of the international races held in Saudi Arabia in previous years.