Top Europeans take on QATAR’S best races
Issa Al Mohannadi: Invaluable Festival celebrating stature of Qatar’s horseracing
The final declarations for the international races of the HH The Amir Sword Festival have been issued featuring quality runners. The US$4.34 million Festival takes place at the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club (QREC) Al Rayyan Park in Doha between Thursday, February 18th and Saturday, February 20th with the HH The Amir Sword and the HH The Amir Trophy as the key clashes among its international section.
QREC Chairman H.E. Issa Bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi stressed the magnificence of the Festival and lauded the role of the sponsors. “The H.H. The Amir Sword Festival is the most prestigious and glamorous equestrian event, not only in QREC, but in Qatar in general as well”, he said, “The value and the nature of Festival do voice the attention paid to Qatar’s horseracing and the standing it has reached in terms of both organisation and competitions thanks to the support from the country’s wise leadership support and their endless efforts to promote Qatar’s equestrian sport in general and horseracing in particular.”
“QREC would like to thank the sponsors who partner QREC in sponsoring the H.H. The Amir Sword Festival and the various activities and events of QREC. I seize this opportunity to thank Daam, QNB, Al Emadi Enterprises/Al Hazm, Longines and Qatar Airways for their valuable collaboration. We wish all stakeholders all success and look forward to a remarkable renewal of the invaluable Festival”, added Al Mohannadi.
In the finale, British raider Berkshire Rocco taking on top locals Aspetar, Noor Al Hawa and Hellenistique in the HH The Amir Trophy and a French trio squaring up against the crack Qatari pair, Tayf and Ebraz, in the HH The Amir Sword.
Presented by Longines, Saturday’s mile and a half (2400m) $1 million (£729,927) HH The Amir Trophy is the thoroughbred highlight of the Festival. It has attracted a field of ten including Berkshire Rocco, trained in England by Andrew Balding, second last year at both Royal Ascot (in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase) and Doncaster (in the Group 1 St Leger).
The son of Sir Percy will be ridden by Jason Watson as he faces up to the cream of the local equine population, spearheaded by the Group 1 scorer, Aspetar (Maxime Guyon), having his first start for Qatari trainer Julian Smart since leaving Roger Charlton’s British-based string; Hellenistique (Ronan Thomas), winner of December’s Qatar Derby; and the evergreen 2016 Qatar Derby hero, Noor Al Hawa (Alberto Sanna), already twice runner-up in this contest and successful in four times out of four this season, most recently beating Hellenistique in the HE Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani Rifle.
Two of the very best purebred Arabians in the world, Smart’s Ebraz (Guyon) and the Alban de Mieulle-trained Tayf(Ronan Thomas), go head-to-head again in Saturday’s other $1 million showpiece, the HH The Amir Sword (Sponsored by Al Hazm).
Ebraz has landed the last two renewals of this prestigious event, getting the better of Tayf on both occasions, but Tayf took revenge in October when beating his old rival into third in the Group 1 Qatar Arabian World Cup in France.
They may not have things all their own way in this mile and a half (2400m) event as a 14-strong field features three runners from the stable of French handler Thomas Fourcy. Pick of the triumvirate is Julien Auge’s mount, Lady Princess, who has notched six victories and two second places from eight career starts, most recently triumphing in December’s Qatar Derby.
Fourcy’s other representatives are the three-time Group 1 runner-up, Melabi (Jerome Cabre), and Faleh Bughanaim’s mount, Kair Al Cham, lightly-raced since landing a Group 3 in Holland in 2019.
There is also French involvement in Saturday’s big speed test, the US$250,000 (£187,870) Dukhan Sprint (Sponsored by Breeders’ Cup) over six furlongs (1200m), in the shape of Air de Valse. Owner/trainer/breeder Corine Barande-Barbe has booked Thomas to partner her mare, winner of a Group 3 at ParisLongchamp last September and beaten little more than two lengths when sixth in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at the same venue three weeks later. She will have Ronan Thomas in the saddle.
Air de Valse will face eight Qatari opponents, led by Taxiwala (Sanna), Think Big (Tomas Lukasek) and X Force (Auge), first, second and fourth in the Al Shaqab Racing Trophy over this course and distance on February 3rd.
The size of the international contingent at the HH The Amir Sword Festival has been reduced by the recent imposition of additional Covid-19 quarantine regulations and Saturday’s top three-year-old event, the US$250,000 (£187,870) one mile (1600m) Al Biddah Mile will be an all-domestic 12-runner affair. Soldierpoy, winner of all four of his Doha starts including against nine of these rivals on his latest outing, will be hard to beat if lasting out this extra furlong.
Saturday’s final international event, the Qatar International Cup (Sponsored by Daam), is a US$250,000 (£187,870) one mile (1600m) race for purebred Arabians. Amaar, a visitor from Oman, is the only foreigner among a 15-runner field headed by the three-time Group 2 scorer, Al Naama (Soufiane Saadi),
The US$200,000 (£150,376) Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup takes place 24 hours before the Festival’s other five international contests on Friday (February 19th). This one mile (1600m) affair will see an Irish challenger, Bowerman, the mount of Ronan Whelan, go up against 13 locals.
Trained by Ado McGuinness, Bowerman has not been on a racecourse since landing a Group 3 over an extended mile and a quarter at Dundalk in September. He is equally effective at this trip and may have most to fear from December’s Group 3 Barzan Cup second, Dominus (Sanna).
Source: Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club