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‘There’s so much to learn about Arabian horses’

Veteran handler Duffield believes that dealing with the breed takes a special skill

Image Credit: Gulf News archive
Gillian Duffield
Gulf News

Dubai: Veteran Arabian race horse trainer Gillian Duffield insists that the key to finding success with Purebred Arabians is to learn to enjoy and relish them.

Training Arabians is not only about winning, she insists.

“Arabians are great little horses. They are horses that are meant to be enjoyed. Dealing with them is a skill,” says Duffield.

“I have been training Arabians for a long time but there are nationals [Emiratis] here who know more about these horses than I ever will because they are such an important part of the heritage here.

“Arabian races in the UAE are competitive and there is a lot of enjoyment to be gained from racing them and I think it’s important that this part of the heritage is protected and nurtured, especially in a city like Dubai that is developing so quickly.

“There is in fact a lot to learn about them... 20 years on and I am still learning new ways to connect with these horse.”

Duffield, who says she keeps her stable staff motivated by providing a comfortable and fun working environment, is hopeful of having a good season in the UAE.

“We will end up with around 20 horses in training this season,” she says. “We have a few nice horses coming over from the UK at around the end of the year, so we will be starting the season without the numbers on the ground initially.”

Making the trip from the UK is Duffield’s Tzar du Paon, the winner of the IFAHR Trophy in Istanbul, Turkey, last season. He was last seen on a track when finishing third in the prestigious Group 1 Shadwell Dubai International Stakes, part of September’s Dubai International Arabian Race Day, at England’s Newbury Racecourse.

“He has a lot of ability but is still a little green,” said Duffield of the half-brother to Dubai Kahayla Classic winner, Seraphin du Paon.

“We’ll just start him off slowly and be looking at giving him around four runs this season.

“He’s more of a Maktoum Challenge horse, but obviously we would like to believe that he can go for the big one (Dubai Kahayla Classic). But we’ll first have to wait and see how he handles the surface at Meydan”

Another Newbury star that Duffield brings to Dubai is Elraawy, who won the Bengali d’Albret Premier Handicap that enabled Duffield to emerge as champion Purebred Arabian trainer in the UK for 2012.

Duffield is also looking forward to the UAE debut of popular mare, AF Alghabra, who won three times last season and will be aimed at the Mazrat Al Ruwayah Prep at the opening Meydan meeting on November 8 and the National Day Cup.

The affable handler first took out a licence to train Arabian horses for Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, in 1989 and since then her name has been synonymous with some of the world’s best-known Arabian runners, including Madjani, Kaolino, Bengalant, Eau Royale and No Risk Al Maury.

She has also scored multiple wins in the UAE’s most prestigious races, including the President’s Cup, Dubai Kahayla Classic, Al Maktoum Challenge series, Emirates Championships, UAE Triple Crown and Colts’ and Fillies’ Classics.