Mirza Al Sayegh (C1), Shareef al Halwani (R) and Ed Prosser
Mirza Al Sayegh (C1), Shareef al Halwani (R) and Ed Prosser at a press conference to announce Keeneland’s sponsorship debut at Jebel Ali Racecourse this weekend. Image Credit: Leslie Wilson Jr/Gulf News

Dubai: Keeneland, the world’s largest and most renowned thoroughbred auction house and host of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, will on Friday add its name to a high-profile roster of partners in support of a first-ever eight-race card at Jebel Ali Racecourse.

And the Kentucky-based horse racing empire could not have chosen a better time to begin its association with the racecourse as Friday’s meeting features a mouth-watering assortment of races highlighted by the twin feature – the Jebel Ali Stakes and Jebel Ali Sprint.

Both races carry an attractive purse of Dh500,000 and Listed race status.

Keeneland are joined by Jebel Ali’s pillar partner, Shadwell, the breeding arm of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, Shadwell Farm, Emitrates NBD, Al Shafar Investment, Al Sahel Contracting and Commercial Bank of Dubai.

Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of the Office of Sheikh Hamdan, applauded Keeneland for joining the Jebel Ali family and said that it would go a long way to further raising the profile of horse racing at the popular Friday venue.

“This is a landmark day here at Jebel Ali Racecourse,” he said. “We welcome our friends from Keeneland on board. Sheikh Hamdan is a big supporter of Keeneland and vice-versa. It means a lot to Jebel Ali and to Sheikh Hamdan.”

Ed Prosser, Keeneland’s European Representative commented on the occasion: “Jebel Ali is a fantastic racecourse, which hosts extremely competitive racing. It prides itself on a happy, friendly atmosphere, which is a testament to the great management team over here overseen by [Maj. General] Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Deputy Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security).

“We at Keeneland have enjoyed a very long-standing relationship and friendship with the Al Maktoum Family in Dubai so it’s exciting to be able to cement that relationship with this sponsorship.

“In our race on Friday, 14 of the 17 entries were bred in America so it’s an appropriate race to be sponsoring,” Prosser added.

Engineer Shareef Al Halawani, Manager, Jebel Ali Racecourse, also thanked Keeneland for coming forward to support their racing. “Keeneland have been our friends for many years so it is with great pleasure that we welcome them on board as a sponsor,” he said.

Meanwhile, trainer Satish Seemar, who has set a high benchmark of this year’s championship with 32 winners, added his voice to the support of Jebel Ali Racecourse.

“I have always said that Jebel Ali is one of my favourite racecourses,” said the Zabeel Stables boss. “It is a very fair track and very competitive.

“I’ve always brought horses here to train in the morning as it helps me to guage how good they are and I really appreciate all the help that I get from the friendly staff over here.”