Dubai: Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, has praised Jebel Ali Racecourse for the resilience and capacity its team has demonstrated in restoring the dirt surface to an agreeable racing condition.
Racing was temporarily suspended at the venue in the last week of December following concerns by jockeys on the level of ‘kickback’ they had endured during the races.
Subsequently, a crack team led by Mohammad Al Shehhi, Shareef Al Halawani and expert track consultants worked overtime to resolve the issue and deliver a safe track on January 24, when racing resumed with the Group 3 Jebel Ali Stakes.
“Sheikh Hamdan, who has for long been a major patron of Jebel Ali Racecourse, is thrilled and delighted that racing has resumed at the venue,” said Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of the Office of Sheikh Hamdan.
“The developments were being closely followed by Sheikh Hamdan, following the temporary closure, and he was in constant touch will all concerned, lending his encouragement and support.
“Jebel Ali Racecourse is very close to his heart, so it was very pleasing news when the track was given the green signal to resume racing by the authorities,” Al Sayegh added. “Sheikh Hamdan believes that in due course Jebel Ali will return to its glory days and continue to be a popular racing venue for jockeys, trainers and all racing people.”
Al Halawani, who was part of the original engineering team that built the racecourse in 1990 following the instructions of Major General Sheikh Ahmad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security, was happy that a major issue had been resolved.
“We lost about 45 days, but I respect the concerns of the jockeys and the decision taken by the ERA,” he said.
“We did whatever was necessary to reach the highest standards of safety at the track. The ERA carried out and inspection and following a trial race Jebel Ali was cleared to resume its activities.”
Al Shehhi added: “We knew that we could not eliminate the kickback, not on a dirt track, but we looked at all areas where we could reduce the volume of flying sand and concentrated on making the track safer and more sound.
“We’re happy with the results overall as the kickback is softer and will get better in the days and weeks to come.”
Trainer Nicholas Bachalard is relieved that the work done on the track is to the satisfaction of everybody concerned, especially the jockeys and trainers.
Explaining the process of the restoration work he said: “We addressed the situation in the best possible way and formed a team that comprises track experts from America and the region.
“We removed some of the top soil and replaced it with red sand from Al Ain, which is the same sand that we used to build our new training track at Jebel Ali. We added engine oil and mixed it in.
“It wasn’t a one person show, the whole team worked very hard,” he added.
“The focus was on safety, so perhaps it’s running a bit slow. But we were not obsessed with the timings, it was safety that we wanted to ensure that it was safe for horses and jockeys.
“It’s still a work in progress and it will take some more time to settle down and get faster,” said Bachalard.
Jebel Ali Racecourse will conduct four more meetings this season on February 7 and 21 and March 6 and 20.
— On November 29, jockeys approach Stewards to raise their concerns about the ‘kickback’ at Jebel Ali Racecourse.
— The ERA inform Jebel Ali Racecourse about the jockey’s concerned and informed that racing would be temporarily suspend until the track conditions improved.
— Jebel Al Racecourse formed a team to deal with the issue and undertook pans to reduce the ‘kickback’ and to improve the safety of the track.
— Consultants were called in for America to help assist in the restoration process with local track experts and the Jebel Ali racecourse engineers.
— The ERA conducted an inspection of the track on December 12th and while acknowledging that conditions had improved felt that it ws still significant enough to be a safety issue.
— The Jebel Ali team continued to work on the track surface laying on sand from Ali Ain and mixing it with engine oil.
— Maintenance crews worked round-the-clock and made good progress as the ‘kickback’ began to subside
— On January 20, following an official trial race featuring 13 horses, the track was declared suitable for racing.
— January 26, Jebel Ali held its first meeting since the suspension, featuring the Group 3 Jebel Ali Stakes.