Mubasher Al Khalediah, ridden by Abdullah Al Fairoz, gets home to win the inaugural running of the GCC Cup Shadwell Image Credit: SERC

Dubai: The extraordinary passion that Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, has for the Purebred Arabian horse has paved the way for Saudi Arabia to host a major race meeting on Thursday.

Arguably the world’s biggest and most highly respected patron of the Arabian racehorse, Sheikh Hamdan will sponsor the eight-race meeting, which will be held at the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh.

Key races on the day with be the 120,000 riyals Shadwell Farm Cup, plus the UAE Cup, UAE Embassy Riyadh Cup, Derrinstown Cup, Shadwell Cup and Cooperation Cup, all worth 40,000 riyals each.

Leading contenders will be top horses representing the formidable Khalediah Stables, owned by Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz.

Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of the office of Sheikh Hamdan, has for over three decades been the driving force behind Shaikh Hamdan’s aspirations to promote the Arabian horse globally. As a result, racing fans in more than 30 countries have had the thrill of watching the majestic breed in action.

Mirza Al Sayegh

“This partnership between Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Hamdan hopes to further promote Arabian racing and to inspire all those who were involved to look at ways to develop it further,” he said,

“Sheikh Hamdan has expressed his appreciation to the Saudi racing authorities for supporting his initiative and welcoming his patronage at the magnificent racecourse.

“Sheikh Hamdan is keen to take Arabian racing in the region to a higher level to ensure that the quality of the breed continues to improve,” Al Sayegh added.

“We look forward to a wonderful day of racing at the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz racecourse.”

Faisal Rahmani, President of the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities, who shares Sheikh Hamdan’s passion to grow Arabian racing, said: “This is a very positive step for Arabian racing in the region as it encourage more promoters of the breed to support the initiative.

“The Arabian horse population is very large in Saudi Arabia where there over 20,000 horses including racehorses, equestrian horses and show horses.

“Saudi Arabia’s breeding operation is of the highest standard and Sheikh Hamdan’s support of Thursday race meeting will provide a further boost to the country, which is committed to developing a comprehensive sporting profile as hosts of major events like boxing, tennis and snooker,” he added.

One of the star attractions at Thursday’s meeting will be one of the stars of the Saudi Arabian Al Khalediah farm, the six-race winner Mubasher Al Khaledia.

The four-year-old won the Shadwell Cup at this meeting 12 months ago in addition to winning the UAE President Cup.

Miteb Al Shammari, Director of Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Racecourse, heaped praise on Shaikh Hamdan for his widespread support of the Arabian horse.

“We are looking forward to hosting a race meeting under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan,” said Al Shammari.

“I am sure that the races will be competitive and of the highest standard.”

Race programme

2.30pm: DIAR Cup (PA — Open), 1,400m, Riyal 40,000

3pm: Derrinstown Cup (PA- Mares), 1,400m, Riyal 40,000

3.30pm: Shadwell Cup (PA Maiden), 1,600m, Riyal 40,000

4pm: UAE Embassy Riyadh Cup (PA Open), 1,600m, Riyal 40,000

4.30pm: Co-orporation Cup (PA Handicap), 1,600m, Riyal 40,000

5pm: UAE Cup (PA Open), 1,600m, Riyal 40,000

5.30pm: Al Hazam Cup (PA Desert Bred), 1,800m, Riyal 40,000

6pm: Shadwell Farm Cup, 1,800m, Riyal 120,000