Author: Derek Thompson

YES the capital and Abu Dhabi Racecourse was the place to be on Sunday as a massive crowd packed the stands and enjoyed a thrilling evening of top class racing and entertainment. The racing out on the track couldn’t have been better or more thrilling and that was certainly the case in the Sheikh Zayed Jewel Crown where Mashhur Al Khalediah lived up to his billing as the highest rated horse in the race to land the £1,000,000 prize. Ridden with great aplomb by French jockey Jean-Bernard Eyquem he was always proving too good for his rivals although it’s fair to say second placed Bel’Izam was a little unlucky in running. It was also a personal triumph for UK trainer Phil Collington who could hardly believe he had just trained the winner of the richest Purebred Arabian race run in the world this year!

It was the sixth win from 12 starts for the 6yo grey horse who carries the black, blue and white colours of one of the Saudi royal studs, Athbah Racing. The other two main races both went to HH Sheikh Khalifa and his trainer Eric Lemartinel with Riccardo Iacopini, a 20yo from Rome, riding the winner of the Sheikha Fatima Apprentice Jockey Championship and Victoria Larsen, a 21yo from Denmark, winning the Ladies Championship. Then it was the pony race and HH Sheikha Latifa brought the house down just by being there to watch her race and present the prizes. But it was the overall enjoyment of the evening that made it so popular and there was a buzz about the place I’ve never experienced before at Abu Dhabi Racecourse.

Indeed Kim Elliot the new CEO at Abu Dhabi Racing & Equestrian Club has turned the place around since coming from Australia in May and it was fascinating watching his attention to detail as I spent three hours with him on Wednesday morning. It seems a 4am start is his norm! He has built up a knowledgable team behind him and they have certainly transformed the place. Also, well done to the committee behind the whole event who worked tirelessly to organise what was a great success. Meanwhile while all this was going on there was also some tremendous racing in the UK where despite the rain and the cold weather we had an incredible race at Ascot where Cyrname brought to an end the 19 race winning run of Altior. Harry Cobden led all the way on Cyrname and comfortably held the persistant challenge of the odds on favourite Altior.

I hope the two horses clash again in the King George at Kempton over Christmas where they could meet up with another of Saturday’s big winners, Lostintranslation, who won well at Haydock. He may be only 21 but Donnacha O’Brien has announced his retirement! I hasten to add it’s just retirement from the saddle because the Classic winning jockey has been struggling to keep his weight down and will now follow in the footsteps of his father Aidan and elder brother Joseph and become a racehorse trainer. He’s a lovely young man who was an excellent rider and we wish him well in his new profession. And finally... well done to Oisin Murphy who won the Japan Cup. Oisin has had an outstanding season that saw him crowned UK Champion Jockey and winning this £2,000,000 prize has to be the icing on the cake! vv

What an atmosphere – it’s fantastic