SWEDEN’S Malin Holmberg on Shadan and ‘local lad’ Saif Al Balushi on RW Starry Night emerged winners of their respective races to herald the ninth edition of the HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival last Friday, at the Al Rahba Racecourse in Muscat, Oman. Holmberg, who was registering her 37th victory in 311 starts was on top in the €30,000 HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship (IFAHR) race run over 1600m.
Holmberg finished ahead of the UK’s Jodie Hughes on BF Asareah, while Ireland’s Helen Mooney on Rabdan ran into third place. “It’s been amazing to win my race here in Oman and qualify for the final. Full credit goes to my little horse Shadan and all those involved in this win. It has been so much fun,” Holmberg said. The Swede now becomes the first lady jockey to clinch a spot in the year ending finale of the race series which visits many other venues around the world before the November final in Abu Dhabi.
It was a great day for Omani racing as one of their apprentice jockeys won the inaugural HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Apprentice Jockeys World Championship (IFHRA) race to be staged in Oman. Saif Al Balushi on RW Starry Night won the €20,000 race, also over 1600m, to bring a huge cheer from the large crowd that assembled for the Oman Derby Day meeting. The 22yo and the 10yo bay gelding RW Starry Night finished ahead of Kersley Ramsamy of Mauritius on Jareer, while Germany’s Esther Weissmeier on Jayyash finished third.
“I am really happy to win this race today and will do my best in the final in November in Abu Dhabi to keep my country’s flag flying high. “This race for apprentice jockeys is a huge boost for young jockeys and it is a sign of prestige to win a leg of this world championship series in the name of HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak,” the Omani jockey said. HE Mohammed Sultan Al Suwaidi, UAE ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, festival representative Lara Sawaya, Mohsen bin Mohammed Al Sheikh, chairman of Muscat Municipality, Brigadier Abdul Razaq bin Abdul Qadir Al-Shahwarzi, Commander of the Royal Cavalry and Supervisor General of Horse Races, Bahraini Shura Council member Lulwa Al Awadhi, Munira Marzouki and Dr Stefano Daneri, representing National Feed and Flour Production, one of the festival’s sponsors, were among those presenting trophies to the winning connections.
Al Suwaidi said: “It is great the HH Sheikh Mansour Festival is starting here in Oman. This is a great festival of races and every year it has become bigger and better. We are proud the UAE leaders have devoted so much attention to our heritage sport and we congratulate HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for the great success of the festival.” Sawaya thanked the Omani officials and the racing staff for the cooperation in smoothly organising the two races under the umbrella of the festival. “The two world championship races held today carry the name of HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak and hence are very important to us,” Sawaya stated. “The icing on the cake was the win for Omani apprentice Saif Al Balushi and we hope more jockeys from the region excel in this sport,” she added.