Racing-Jebel Ali
Jebel Ali will host its 11th and final race meet of the season Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: Having displayed commendable resilience during a year filled with challenges, the Jebel Ali Racecourse management is already looking forward to the next season with renewed optimism in a bid to drive the sport forward.

Despite spectators not being allowed to attend the races due to COVID-19, racing has continued seamlessly at the popular venue ahead of this weekend’s 11th and final meeting of the 2020-2021 season.

The official highlight on the final day’s racing is the Jebel Ali Classic (Silver Jubilee), a conditions event over 1,400 metres.

However, the race the that looks set to capture the attention of the racing community in the UAE is the first running of the Mohammed Taha Cup, a handicap event named after the pioneering racing writer and entrepreneur who passed away in April last year.

The race was proposed by Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of the office of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, as a tribute to the services Taha bestowed on racing in the country and in particular helping promote Purebred Arabian around the world.

Jebel Ali is set for its 11th meeting of the season
Jebel Ali is set for its 11th meeting of the season Image Credit: Courtesy Abdalla Khalifa

“Taha played a pivotal role a key member of the organising committee for the Dubai International Arabian Races (DIAR), a series created by Sheikh Hamdan over 30 years ago to help grow the sport of Arabian racing over the world,” said Al Sayegh during a virtual press conference. “The committee was boosted by his active presence and in helping the growth of the Arabian horse in countries as far as Australia, New Zealand, America, Scotland, Germany, Holland and the UK.

“He satisfied the media’s thirst for information on the series and his efforts were much appreciated. He was not only a colleague but a close friend and his passing was a personal loss. I take this opportunity to convey by deepest sympathies to his family and friends and offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for his tireless commitment to his role. I hope the Mohammed Taha Cup will keep his memory alive in the world of horse racing.”

Al Sayegh also confirmed that Jebel Ali Racecourse would continue to have the support of Shadwell, the breeding operation of Sheikh Hamdan, next season.

“I can assure you that Sheikh Hamdan has pledged his continuing support for racing at this lovely racecourse with the support of Shadwell, Shadwell Farm and Derrinstown Stud, through the next season just as he has done over the years,” said Al Sayegh.

Meanwhile, Sam Shinsky, Chief Steward of the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA), lauded Jebel Ali Racecourse for its resilience during the past season.

“Jebel Ali Racecourse has always been a crowd-friendly racetrack and we did miss the fans this year,” he said. “It has always had a great atmosphere and hopefully we can look forward to having them back next season. As much as we are coming to the end of the season, we look back and realise that we have been very fortunate to continue racing in the UAE during the pandemic, and Jebel Ali has been a big part of that to ensure that racing can continue in a safe manner.

“We are very thankful for the work that they’ve done and look forward to next season. The club is always been very ambitious to improve their facilities and they plan to build an additional barn which will allow for more horses to race here during the new season.”