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UAE champion handler hunts for World Cup runner

Al Raihe committed to nurturing a horse to compete on the big day at Meydan

Gulf News

Dubai: Emirati trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe has one thing left on his wish list.

“My aim is to take a horse to the Dubai World Cup,” says Al Raihe. “And if we get a horse in the World Cup then of course my aim would be to try and win it.”

Al Raihe and his team, including assistant, Jilani Seddiqi, and long-time stable jockey Royston Ffrench, condition 77 horses at his Grandstand Stables near Meydan racecourse. Somewhere in that number Al Raihe hopes will be a horse that has World Cup credentials.

“People don’t bring us the kind of horses that can get straight into the World Cup,” said the trainer. “Instead we must build them up over the season to hopefully raise their rating enough to run in the big races.”

Al Raihe has a proven track record in this area. Sprinter Happy Dubai was rated 76 when he first came to Grandstand Stables, now he’s 112 and has contested the World Cup day Al Quoz Sprint as well as the Krisflyer Sprint in Singapore.

Zain Shamardal, a regular at the Dubai World Cup Carnival started with a rating of 89 and is rated 105 this season.

Al Raihe singles out Sharaayeen and Rutland Boy, currently both rated 100, as horses to watch out for.

“We will see how they go over 2000m and go from there,” says the handler who has enjoyed plenty of highlights over the last few years.

In 2011 Derbaas topped off a four-race winning streak with victory over De Kock’s Raihana in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort while First City touched off De Kock’s stable star, Mahbooba, in the Group 2 Balanchine a year later.

Al Raihe is also looking forward to racing horses like Garbah and Il Grande Maurizio in addition to several new recruits.

UAE owner Jaber Abdullah has sent him four new horses including Group 3 Irish 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes runner up, Akeed Wafi, the unexposed Tamaam and maidens Desert of Dreams and Blue Sea.

Ahmad Al Shaikh has handed the trainer two interesting types, Ana Emaratiya and Desert Philosopher, while Khalid Al Naboudah has added three maidens to Al Raihe’s string, including National Flag, who has raced once in Abu Dhabi, along with Gunboat and Latkhaf.

Despite his success Ali Raihe remains a down-to-earth kind of guy.

“It’s a team effort,” he says. “I am only one part of it. Everybody here works hard to get these horses to the track.

“And ultimately we are only here thanks to the vision and support of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.”