Dubai: The GCC Cup, a highly-anticipated flat race that hopes to enhance the status of Purebred Arabian racing in the region, has attracted a quality field for its first running at the Sharjah Equestrian U& Racing Club (SERC) on Saturday, February 16.

The PA Prestige race for horses aged four-year-old and over has been conceptualised by Shaikh Abdullah Bin Majid Al Qassimi, President of the SERC, to bring horse racing enthusiasts from around the GCC together in a spirit of competition.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Majid Al Qasimi
Shaikh Abdullah Bin Majid Al Qasimi, Sultan Al Yahyi, Faisal Al Rahamani and Mirza Al Sayegh addressing a press conference ahead of Saturday’s showpiece race at Sharjah. Image Credit: Leslie Wilson Jr. /Gulf News

Al Qassimi believes that the GCC Cup is a valuable tool to promote cooperation between the neighbouring countries while showcasing the unique appeal of the Arabian racehorse.

A quality field of 11 top-rated horses, led by Saudi Arabia’s Nader Al Khalediah, will line up alongside challengers from Oman and the UAE to vie for a valuable purse of Dh200,000 in the 1,700 metre contest, the showpiece of a six-race card,

“This race was created to support the owners and breeders of Purebred Arabian horses in the GCC regions,” Al Qassimi said on Monday.

Footage by: Leslie Wilson Jr. /Gulf News

“We are very much looking forward to hosting this event here in Sharjah because it brings together the entire racing fraternity in a very competitive environment.

“Some of the best Arabian horses are winning big races around the world and we want to see them compete here in the Emirates,” he added.

“From next year we are thinking of having a similar race for UAE-bred horses. We are always looking for ways to support breeders of Arabian horses.”

The entire six-race will be sponsored by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, through his Shadwell and Derrinstown Stud breeding operations.

Mirza Al Sayegh, the Director of Shaikh Hamdan’s Office, explained: “When Shaikh Hamdan heard about the GCC Cup, he did not hesitate to offer his support and said ‘just go for it’ when it comes to Sharjah.

“Shaikh Hamdan believes that this is a great way to enhance Arabian racing in the region and to foster goodwill among the neighbours. He is always keen to do his best to support the growth of Arabian racing in the region.

“This GCC Cup is bound to go from strength to strength,” Al Sayegh added.

Emirates Racing Authority are the governing body for horse racing in the UAE and its representative Yasser Mabrook also gave the GCC Cup a big thumbs up,

“It is a very good initiative and idea Shaikh Abdulla has brought to the sport,” said Mabrook.

“Purebred Arabians have run here at Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and Shaikh Abdulla felt why not invite other owners from the Gulf to participate? It is more about bringing together GCC countries that enjoy Arabian racing.

“Some of the top owner-breeders in the GCC will be represented with four horses coming from Saudi Arabia, the Royal Cavalry Oman sending one horse who will come up against some of the best locally-based horses from the stables of the President His Highness Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Yas Racing, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and Jebel Ali Stables.”