Newmarket, England: It may have been the hottest day of the year in Britain but Phil Collington, the former champion jockey-turned-Purebred Arabian race horse trainer, was keeping a cool head as he assessed the chance of his runners at the UK’s most prestigious Arabian race day this Sunday.
With the temperatures close to a record-breaking 39 degrees Celsius, Collington, who took over from the legendary Gill Dufied as principal trainer to Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance three years back, showed off some of his main contenders for Sunday’s Dubai International Arabian Races (DIAR) at Newbury Racecourse.
DIAR, which is the flagship day for Arabian racing in the UK and Europe, was created by Shaikh Hamdan 38 years ago to help develop and promote the sport which has been conceived as a poor cousin to the thriving thoroughbred industry.
Even as he paraded horses from his Brickland Stables at British racing’s headquarters in Newmarket, Collington was quick to applaud the role played by his boss. “Shaikh Hamdan has tirelessly promoted and supported Arabian racing in the country for the last three decades. Through his vision and inspiration, Dubai Race Day was created. Here we are, 38 years later, looking forward to what is the most exciting racing event for Arab horses anywhere in the world.”
Collington rode over 150 winners during his career, during which time he won some of the most sought after prizes in Purebred Arabian racing, and he has shown that he can be just as good training winners for other jockeys.
In the three years since he took out a trainer’s licence, he has sent out over 60 winners including wins in Belgium, France, Italy and Saudi Arabia.
Asked for his thoughts on Saturday’s big day, Collington said: “I will have 11 runners, including seven for Shaikh Hamdan. I think Halib des Forges is my best chance on the day.
“He was second to Salima, who was a winner here last year, but that was on soft ground. With the ground now reported good to firm I think he would have a better chance to win.
“Halib has ben improving since I’ve had him from France, he’s a horse who shapes better when I don’t work him too much, as he puts a lot of effort into his work,” he revealed. “So I try and keep him quite fresh and not overworked.”
Collington also felt that the Shaikh Hamdan-owned Mustafeed, who runs in the Group 3 DIAR International Stakesm has what he describes as a “big, big chance”.
“Mustafeed was second on his last start in the prep race,” he said, “He was only beaten by a short margin, so he will have a big, big chance.”
Collington revealed that even after all these years, first as a jockey and now as a trainer, the Dubai Race Day still means a lot to him, just as it does to any of the Purebred Arabian trainers who will descend on Newbury on Saturday.
“I’ve had five winners on Dubai Race Day and they all meant a lot to me,” he said. “I think it’s probably more exciting training them, because it’s much more nerve-racking than riding them. That’s the easy part.
“But yes, there’s a lot of enjoyment training winners.”