AF Lafeh will be one of the horses in the headline race on Friday at the inagural meeting at Al Ain Racecourse. Delores Johnson / The National
AF Lafeh will be one of the horses in the headline race on Friday at the inagural meeting at Al Ain Racecourse. Delores Johnson / The National

Al Ain Racecouse opening will provide lift in prize money offered

Al Ain racecourse opens its doors for the first time Friday and brings with it a financial boost for owners and breeders of Purebred Arabians.

The venue is the country’s fifth racecourse, and has added Dh2.5 million in prize money for Purebred Arabian races, spread across the five meetings.

“The prize money for the Arabians offered for the meetings in Al Ain is very attractive,” said Faisal Al Rahmani, the head of the 10-man committee appointed by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to develop and organise horse racing at the Garden City.

“It is around Dh7.8m total prize money offered for the Arabians in the country [this season] and with the prize monies offered from the meetings in Al Ain, it will be around 25 per cent increase for this season.”

The inaugural meeting today consists of five races for Arabians and one for thoroughbreds.

The highlight is the Dh120,000 Conditions race over a mile for Arabians that has drawn some quality entries, including four horses (Rasikh-107, AF Lafeh-107, Bigg N Rich-104 and Laamma-100) rated over 100.

“We are also thinking of new themes to add value to the races and provide maximum entertainment to the racing fraternity,” Al Rahmani said.

“We have allocated Dh40,000 for the Pick Six competition for the public and a Nissan Patrol for the winning owner of the Al Wathba Stud Farm Cup for the private owners and stables.”

Officials are also planning to include a night meeting, which may be at the venue’s final meeting for the season on March 20 or from next season, as well as a feature race – the Al Ain Mile for a prize of Dh250,000.

The Al Ain racecourse is right-handed with a 2,500m oval track making it the largest in the UAE, and is described as a mixture of sand and fibre by Neil Abrahams, the racing manager for Al Ain Equestrian Club.

“The track has been used for training purposes for over 10 years but not really good enough for racing purposes. It took a lot of time because a lot of heavy work had to be done on the entire track,” he said. “Obviously it is an exciting occasion for all and the fruition of a lot of effort. We had a very successful trial last week and it is great to have our first meeting.

“It is a very forgiving track with a good cushioning and the horses will appreciate that. It is not deep and good for the welfare of the horses.”

Tadhg O’Shea, the UAE champion jockey, was involved in the trial and believes the surface will improve with more races.

“Potentially, Al Ain is one of the best racecourses in the UAE – it is a beautiful track and we jockeys were all really impressed with the layout,” the Irishman said.

“It has a really long 600m straight and is a welcome addition to our fixture list. I am really looking forward to racing there.”

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