Dubai: Jebel Ali Racecourse has been urged to raise the bar and take the sport of horse racing to a higher level.

Speaking to media on Tuesday, Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of the Office of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, reiterated Shaikh Hamdan’s keen interest in the popular racecourse.

“Shaikh Hamdan has instructed that every effort should be made to further develop Jebel Ali Racecourse and all related equestrian sports, like endurance,” he said. “The venue is well established on the UAE racing scene, but Shaikh Hamdan wants to see more growth in various aspects, on the sports side and in infrastructure and new initiatives. We are currently in discussion on this and will soon make some announcements regards the plans.”

Al Sayegh, who has been the driving force in implementing Shaikh Hamdan’s equine ambitions, be it in the UAE or on a global level, is excited about the future.

“Shaikh Hamdan’s passion knows no bounds,” he said. “He is frequently looking at developing ideas and new proposals. He listens to people and their suggestions, he’s very open to developing Jebel Ali and anything that has to do with equine sport.

“Recently, he has instructed all his endurance trainers to welcome and advise any young rider, who is interested in knowing more about the sport or even wants to learn how to ride.

“Shaikh Hamdan embraces youth who are the future of the sport, and without whom equine sport has no future.

“His investment in youth resulted in one of the most popular competitions related to horse racing — the popular camel and horse painting competitions, which are held each year at Newbury Racecourse in England as part of the Dubai International Arabian Races (DIAR) and which for the first time have been conducted in Dubai this season,”

Selected schools are invited to encourage their students to use their creativity and skills to paint actual size racehorse models. More than 10 schools have taken part in the first Dubai competition with the winners scheduled to be announced at this Friday’s Jebel Ali Races.

The winner will receive Dh15,000, the runner-up Dh12,000 and the third place Dh10,000.

In addition a spot live-painting competition will be held at Jebel Ali Racecourse in Friday with an additional prize awaiting the best efforts.

“This was an idea of Shaikh Hamdan’s to help bring young people closer to the horse, to befriend the horse and make equine sport a part of their daily life,” said Al Sayegh. “We have noticed that more and more younger people are following horse racing in the UK, which is a good sign.

“The sport has to be passed on from one generation to another.”