By Mikhil Bhat/Doha
A “special race” is how trainer Julian Smart describes HH The Emir’s Sword Group 1 race for Pure Arabians.
The British-born trainer knows a thing or two about the million-dollar race. HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani-owned Assy, trained by Smart, was the first local bred to win the mile and a half race two years ago.
Khalifa bin Sheail al-Kuwari (left), owner of The Blue Eye, picks gate number one for his horse in the HH The Emir’s Trophy (Gr1) for Thoroughbreds.
“HH The Emir’s Sword is the race to win in Qatar. You could win every race, every race all season; lose this one, and you have had a bad year. You could lose every race, but win The Emir’s Sword, it’s all forgiven,” Smart told Gulf Times yesterday at the draw ceremony for the Total-sponsored race.
Assy will start from Gate 10 for the race on Saturday. “It’s a 2,400m race for Arabians, so he could as well start from the car park, and it won’t make a difference,” was his tongue-in-cheek response when the number was drawn.
QREC GM Nasser Sherida al-Kaabi (left) with Al Emadi Enterprises CEO Mohamed Abdulkarim al-Emadi yesterday.
Not much later, trainer Thomas Fourcy, who was up on the dais to pick the gate number for last year’s winner Al Mourtajez, was asked if his horse could beat Assy. The Frenchman, who had the help of a translator, only replied, “Oui.”
The gauntlet, as the ceremony host said, was thrown.
While Al Mourtajez raced to an imperious win in the Qatar Arabian World Cup in Paris on the Arc day on his last outing, Assy made a winning return after two years to win the Purebred Arabian Sword Trial earlier this month.
“He (Assy) had issues. He is a very difficult horse to train. He had injuries, accidents. But he is stronger now, he is more mature now. Nobody gives a horse two years. But Sheikh Mohamed is a patient enough man to give me the time and he is trusting enough,” Smart said about the Amer colt, who has won on his last nine outings.
Joining the top two rated horses in the quest for the top prize are Sheikh Mohamed’s Gazwan and Al Majh’hoor, Umm Qarn’s Nashmi and TM Thunder Struck, HE Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah Cup winner Jenjal, Omani horses Raddad and Arkan, and the two females Injaaz Stud’s Vetlana De Faust, and Haanoof from the UAE.
“The depth of the race is much stronger than last year. Last year, Al Mourtajez won the race and he is a world class horse. But the race is stronger this year,” Smart said.
“I am not running three horses, because I think they all can win. I am running three horses because I have a plan. Two of them are going to try and win it,” Smart said referring to Assy and Gazwan, who was the runner-up behind Al Mourtajez in Paris, “and one of them is going to do something else.”
Alban de Mieulle’s charge TM Thunder Struck has been on a three-race winning run since finishing last in the Qatar Arabian World Cup in October. The Majd Al Arab colt has picked up wins in the 1,400m Muaither Cup race, the Qatar National Day Trophy (Gr2 PA) and the mile-long HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani Cup since December.
“TM Thunder Struck is improving this season. Last summer, I made a mistake by removing his blinkers. After I put the blinkers back, he is more concentrated on his job. He ran well in the last three races,” De Mieulle said.
“I am worried about the distance though. If it was 2,000m, I could say he will do something special. He has never run 2,400m, I don’t know if he will hold the distance. If he does hold the distance then he will do a nice race.”
The Umm Qarn trainer said Al Mourtajez has the “best chance”.
In the Group 1 HH The Emir’s Trophy for Thoroughbreds, a mile and a half race, sponsored by Longines, Al Shaqab Racing’s Tashaar will start the 16-strong race from Gate 8. The Richard Hannon-trained colt will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, who has won the race for the last two years with Dubday.
Mike de Kock-trained Tannaaf and Mario Hofer’s charge Rogue Runner, who finished in a dead heat in the Qatar Derby, will also return to the QREC turf, and will start from Gate 14 and 16 respectively.
The inside line in the race will be for Khalifa bin Sheail al-Kuwari’s winner of the Thoroughbred Trophy Trial, The Blue Eye, who will begin the race alongside Injaaz Stud’s Ningara.
Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club general manager Nasser Sherida al-Kaabi, talking after the draw ceremony, said, “It’s been a good season so far, and we are now in the middle of the season with HH The Emir’s Sword. We have seen good interest from the international runners. And I think for our first year as a new administration, we are happy that many people are enjoying being a part of this major event.”
HH The Emir’s Sword (Gr1 PA)
1. Gazwan (HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani)
2. Jenjal (Zakhir Stud)
3. Vetlana De Faust (Injaaz Stud)
4. Nashmi (Umm Qarn)
5. Al Mourtajez (Al Shaqab Racing)
6. Haanoof (HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan)
7. Arkan (Mohamed Rasid al-Sadi)
8. Raddad (Ahmed Abdullah al-Marzooqi)
9. TM Thunder Struck (Umm Qarn)
10. Assy (HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani)
11. Al Majh’hoor (HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani)
HH The Emir’s Trophy (Gr1)
1. The Blue Eye (Khalifa bin Sheail al-Kuwari)
2. Ningara (Injaaz Stud)
3. Hall Of Fame (Mohamed bin Hamad Khalifa al-Attiyah)
4. Agent Murphy (WA Harrison-Allan)
5. Extremis (Injaaz Stud)
6. Peter Anders (Al Murqab Stud)
7. Billabong (Jalobey Racing)
8. Tashaar (Al Shaqab Racing)
9. Right To Dream (Hassan Ali Abdulmalik)
10. Afonso De Sousa (Mrs. J. Magnier & Middleham Park Racing XCVII & Partners)
11. Al Waab (Saeed Mubarak Saeed Aljafali al-Naimi)
12. Ponfeigh (Hassan Ali Abdulmalik)
13. Fort Moville (Mohamed Kazim al-Ansari & Sons)
14. Tannaaf (Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Maktoum)
15. Canndal (Ameera Mohamed KI al-Ansari)
16. Rogue Runner (Eckhard Sauren)
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