Author: Duane Fonseca

HE may have a strong hold on the UAE Owners’ Championship already, but Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda knows only too well from his years in UAE racing of how never to take things for granted. With half the season gone and the high stakes Dubai World Cup Carnival starting three months of nonstop international racing action, Al Nabooda admits it will be tougher during the coming months. But if there’s one thing the dual UAE Champion Owner and Purebred Arabian breeder won’t do is roll over as he goes about his quest of trying to prove that locally bred horses can compete with the best in the world. He has proven that on more than one occasion and has his name on two PA Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic victories as breeder, which includes one as owner as well.

While AF Mathmoon bred by him won the 2016 running of the race in the colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, AF Maher cap ped what was an ultra brilliant 2019 season for Al Nabooda, winning the world’s most prestigious Arabian affair, and, in the process, gaining him his second owners’ title. One to constantly raise the bar, Al Nabooda is happy with the 18 wins he’s enjoyed so far, but you can tell he desires to at least match his all time high score of 53 that won him the title hands down last term. “I am very happy with what we have done so far. This is good, but I will try for better than this,” Al Nabooda said after the Ernst Oertel-schooled AF Alwajel’s massive upset of ES Ajeeb in last Saturday’s PA Prestige HH The Crown Prince of Sharjah Cup. “I was particularly happy with the second race (a maiden won by AF Mahaleel) because it was a maiden and the stallion is one of ours on the farm and he’s proven he can produce good horses.

“We are at the beginning of the season and there are a lot of races coming and we are doing our best. My trainer and our team have done well and I am very happy with the results we are achieving. “I thank God for this because if I compare my results so far with where we were at last year around this time, we have an almost identical number of winners. “But if you notice this year we [with horses bred by us] are winning with many different owners, so it will not make the total that big like last year’s 53 winners but we will try. “It will be tough I think because most of the horses are ready and there are many races coming for maidens and, with horses and racing, you never know. The carnival starts now and winning a championship is always tough. Godolphin have still not started and they will be competing with us when the carnival starts.”

Despite a medical condition that has kept him away from attending race meetings, Oertel has been busy training Al Nabooda’s runners at his Desert 1 Stables base in Al Quoz. Oertel has accounted for 16 of Al Nabooda’s 18 winners so far and the pair share a solid working relationship that saw the South African handler claim a third UAE Trainers’ Championship in what was a magical season for the entire operation, with Tadhg O’Shea triumphant in the jockeys’ race. “Ernst is under medication and has been taking treatment in the morning and evening; that’s the reason he’s been away and will not be coming to the races until he finishes his treatment because his health comes first. But we are coming towards the end of it and he has an MRI soon and from there we will know more,” Al Nabooda revealed.

If there’s one thing Al Nabooda could change in UAE racing, it would be the local perception that overseas breeds are superior than his locally bred horses. “You don’t have to look too far if you think about it. Just look at AF Mathmoon and AF Maher who won the Dubai Kahayla Classic which is the most prestigious race in the world for Purebred Arabians,” Al Nabooda said. “You need most of the owners to start believing that the local breeds can compete with the best in the world because most otherwise buy European bred horses because they are skeptical about the locally bred ones. “You cannot force people. They will learn from their decision like we all have learned from the beginning. I can’t say much about that because the track will prove it in time.” Al Nabooda heaped praise on Sheikh Hamdan for his tremendous support towards the Purebred Arabian cause, which finally has moved the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to integrate Purebred Arabian racing into the British Flat racing calendar in 2020. “HH Sheikh Hamdan has been working on trying to get Purebred Arabian racing included in the big race programmes over there and he has managed to do it which is great news,” said Al Nabooda. “He has done a lot to promote Purebred Arabian horses. He sponsors many Purebred Arabain races and racedays in Europe. Even Sheikh Mansoor has been working hard to promote Arabian horses and it has been a very difficult thing to do. Not just in Europe, but Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Mansoor have been actively trying to promote Arabian racing in Saudi Arabia and other countries worldwide. “Maybe, God willing, one day you’ll see my horses in other countries.”