What a wonderful start it has been to the new racing season in the UAE with all five race courses in the country hosting their opening race meetings.
And given the variety of courses that we have, from the iconic Meydan to the Classic Jebel Ali track and the more regional flavoured venues at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Sharjah Equestrian Club and Al Ain Racecourse, there is something for everyone.
While most of the racing, be it thoroughbred action which is mostly reserved for Meydan and Jebel Ali, or the unique Purebred Arabian variety, they all serve up bucket loads of entertainment.
Some friends of mine, including one serious looking bloke toting a pair of well-worn Carl Zeiss racing binoculars, went racing at Meydan for the first time, and they told me they really enjoyed the evening as there was plenty going on, including good food.
It’s important for the authorities that conduct the sport in the country to ensure that all kinds of racegoers are entertained and not just the hard core punters, who may be far and few between in this part of the world.
Meydan’s opening card on Thursday evening featured seven top quality races and a total prize fund of over Dh1.1 million, thanks to the return of pillar sponsor Emirates Airlines.
Despite this being just the first race meeting of the season, the action was fantastic and not without its share of surprise results, which is par for the course in a sport like horse racing. No sport drives home the saying ‘you’ve got to be in the race, to win it,’ more than flat racing. Where else will you see first timers win, ten year olds outshine the youngsters, or longshots prevail at 100-1 like Prince of Penzance did at the 2015 Melbourne Cup, Australian racing’s most famous race.
Life itself is full of surprises, and many of us sometimes secretly wish for something unexpected to happen. Then they just have to head to one of the UAE racecourse for their daily quota of surprises.
Who would have thought that the €1.2 million Group 1 Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown, the world’s richest Purebred Arabian race, would be won in the Stewards’ room like it was on Saturday evening at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.
RB Burn may have been the first horse past the post but he had done enough wrong in the running to actually have the race taken away from him by the Stewards on the night, who rightfully awarded the race to the French raider Muraaqib.
One can’t help but sympathise with the jockey Gerald Avranche, who clearly did not intentionally do any wrong, but then again rules are rules and if broken, one has to pay the price. And a big prize if was with €1.2 million on the line.
But more of that later and Avranche is bound to have his day, and just like him, many many fans must be looking forward to their next experience at one the UAE racetracks over the next coming months.