Author: Duane Fonseca

Since it's inception in 2009, the HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival has gone from strength to strength to evolve into what it is today: a series that trots the globe touting the cause of Purebred Arabians. Wrought to carry on the efforts made by his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the endeavour enjoys the patronage of HH Sheikh Mansoor, the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and has thrived as it reached out beyond the borders of the Arabian peninsula. The 11th season of the festival gets underway next month and in 2019 the shindig travels to 90 countries, with a total of 124 races, 24 more than last season. Al Adiyat spoke with the woman executing the plans, the festival’s executive director Lara Sawaya, who said Sheikh Mansoor and the UAE are doing a great job at ensuring the growth of Purebred Arabian racing around the world.

Excerpts… Looking back at the ten years what would be your assessment of the progress made by the festival?

All of the ten years were great years, where the festival went from strength to strength, but now that we have started the 11th year, we want to look forward to another stunning season in 2019. Over the course of the ten years, the festival has done a lot to unite the Purebred Arabian racing world with races in diverse countries. That’s why our slogan was very strong: One World, 6 Continents: Abu Dhabi, The Capital. The 11th year of the festival initiated by HH Sheikh Mansoor will be bigger in the number of races and we thank him and HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak for making it one of the top series around the world for Purebred Arabian racing. The Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies and Apprentice World Championships give opportunities to women riders and apprentices around the world to get into the saddle and the recently added Sheikha Latifa Pony Race Series is also as important to us because through it we are preparing riders for the future.

What’s unique for 2019? Any new races or plans to allow for more local participation in big events?

There are a total of 124 races that will be held in 90 countries around the world so we are really pushing the borders here for Purebred Arabian racing. The festival has done a lot over the years to promote it and its efforts have been unceasing. In 2019, apart from the increase of races there will be ten races in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Series, eight in the HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship Series, ten in the HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Apprentice World Championship Series and 13 in the HH Sheikha Latifa bint Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Pony Championship Series.

All of the championships will culminate with the grand finales in Abu Dhabi, but we have revised the schedule of that too so that we can encourage more local owners and trainers to become a part of the world’s richest Purebred Arabian race, which is the Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown. It’s an invitation only race but this year instead of holding it early in November we have scheduled it for 24 November. We always invite all of the best Purebred Arabian horses from around the world for it and they have really high ratings and a very high standard in order to enter. Sheikh Mansoor directed us to push the races back to give UAE owners a chance to prepare their horses for the race.

They will now have a chance to prepare their horses for the race with a prep race for the same being organised on 25 October. Local breeders are important to us and that’s why we have the Wathba Stallions Cup Series worldwide to encourage local breeders of Purebred Arabians around the world to keep the bloodlines going. France has the highest amount of Wathba Stallions Cup races, which is 20, but the series has been spread around the world and touches every continent.

Could you tell us about your role in the festival as its executive director?

I am the executive director of the Sheikh Mansoor Festival and also the chairperson of the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR), which is based in Abu Dhabi.I follow the directions of HH Sheikh Mansoor and he is keen to promote and facilitate the growth of Purebred Arabian racing around the world.

Could you tell us about your presence in the sport of endurance riding?

We sponsor endurance events and in the UAE in particular, we have two important races we sponsor through which we promote sport and try to get families together. These are the Sheikha Fatima bint Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Ladies Endurance Cup and the Sheikh Mohammed bin Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Private Owners Cup, which concluded recently at Al Wathba.

The UAE is one of the foremost countries when it comes to promoting Purebred Arabian racing around the world. Comment...

The UAE is doing a lot for Purebred Arabian racing worldwide and it is through the President Cup World Series and the Sheikh Mansoor Festival and also through Shadwell and HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. So everyone here is working hard to promote Purebred Arabian racing.