Author: Duane Fonseca

Talk about seasonal goals and aspirations hold little significance at the start of a season for former Champion Trainer Satish Seemar. It’s been that way for eons it seems. Eons might just about be the right word to use in the case of the Zabeel Stables boss, who happens to be the UAE’s longest serving trainer and has sent out winners with an almost surreal consistency over the three decades he has plied his trade within UAE shores.

It is a span of time in which he won a whopping half dozen UAE Trainers’ Championships, while establishing himself as the Emirates’ winningmost conditioner with close to 900 career wins here to date. So when he says he isn’t overly excited at the start of a season what he purely means to say is that the build up is a gradual one rising constantly until it reaches a crescendo that plays out more or less until the end of the campaign.

“My goals will be declared in January,” Seemar tells Al Adiyat. It was expected. It is something Seemar has told us before. However, at the start of a season, somehow, the pertinence of the query is an absolute necessity. “At the beginning, we aim for the big races and in a healthy competitive way. These are horses and living beings, so we cannot make plans.

We have to go w i t h them a s they come along and our results and plans will show towards January because that’s always when I am more confident about the fitness and health of the horses and how their form is. “At this point in the season, I’m never excited. Give it another month or so and they’ll be right there because the training regime of my horses is sectional.

“I can talk about my Dubai World Cup Carnival horses and I can give you all kinds of stories, but I don’t know the reality myself because they’re all coming along slowly.” Having said that, Seemar was happy to have hit the ground running on the opening day of the season at Jebel Ali, where Dubai Canal won a 1950m handicap, and picked up a second victory at Meydan last Thursday courtesy of Zero To A Hundred, who, after numerous close calls, picked up a first career success on his eighth start in the card ending 1600m maiden.

Seemar is happy to have made par for his season so far with both wins partnered by reigning UAE Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea, who replaced Richard Mullen as first choice rider at Zabeel towards the end of last season. “It’s always nice to get one out of the way. We started very lightly with a small string at Jebel Ali, had a win and two seconds and we’ started rolling Meydan onwards,” said Seemar, who won his sixth Trainers’ Championship at the end of the 2019/20 campaign after a 13 year hiatus.

“Tadhg had always been riding off and on for me for a long time and Richard will be there as well and rode for me at Jebel Ali. “It’s just a family and we are all a community here. Richard moved to Jebel Ali and Tadhg moved in and whenever we need Richard he will ride for us this season too.” Meanwhile, O’Shea has plenty to look forward to as he rides for what is perhaps the biggest Thoroughbred operation in the UAE, a yard that has nearly 140 horses on its roster according to the man in charge.

“We aim to keep about 130- 135 horses and for this season, including the few in quarantine, we have around 140,” informed Seemar. “The Dubai World Cup Carnival horses don’t come out until the end of December and fortunately this year we have a lot of stock for the carnival. My plan has always been to keep increasing those numbers so we can go to Saudi and race here as well.

“Among those that run in handicaps, a few are slightly behind, but they are all doing well. I think we will really start rolling soon. Preparations have been good so far and the season is starting to look good.” Seemar has been busy in the sales rings as well and has spent plenty snapping up big prospects for owners at auctions both at home and abroad.

He picked up the top lot at the ERA Racing in Dubai Sale in September when buying the 4yo War Front entire Telemaque for a massive Dh825,000 and said a few like Freedom Fighter had been bought from major yards in the States. “We picked Freedom Fighter from Bob Baffert’s yard. He’s a good solid sprinter for the big races and a French horse just arrived called Pertinent, a turf horse, these are two to look forward to and then a few others were bought from different sales, including a few good ones from the Godolphin sale,” Seemar said.

“We collected about 20 juveniles this season so there is a lot of young stock. The ones from the Dubai sale came late because that was in September. My goal has always been to add five horses every year.” Success breeds more success and if Seemar has owners eager to send him their horses it’s all down to what Zabeel Stables have achieved over the years.

Seemar has been a World Cup day victor. He tasted success in the 2013 renewal of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen with Reynaldothewizard and while not many might recall, one of Seemar’s most famous and historic triumphs had been in the 1993 running of the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York with Dayflower, who became the first horse trained in Dubai to win on an international stage.

With racing growing exponentially in the region as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar all invest big to bring international racing to their shores, Seemar believes there is every reason for the Gulf to enhance its reputation as one of the top racing centres worldwide. “I have many new owners who want to taste the waters here and it’s a massive compliment to UAE racing and what has been achieved here,” Seemar said.

“I have a Singapore based syndicate called Altima Syndicate who have sent me horses and Pertinent is a horse I have from new French owners so it’s a very good thing.” Another good thing for the region is the Middle East’s first ‘Breeze-Up Sale’ for 2yos that will be conducted days before the 2022 Dubai World Cup. Seemar praised the move by the ERA dubbing it a giant leap forward for the region.

“The addition of the 2yo sale will definitely bring more owners. The Saudis are getting into it big time and I was beat for every horse I looked to buy at Newmarket recently. If I had a budget for a horse for 200,000, the Saudis paid 400,000. So it’s a good thing. “We are all neighbours and it’s good for competition because hopefully the horses bought there will compete here and the horses bought here will compete there.

“I am really looking forward to the sale because it is a positive step for Dubai. It will open up the region to everyone and you will have to have deeper pockets now. Seemar is also all for integrating racing in the region. “If the logistics are safe and comfortable, I don’t mind travelling anywhere in the world. Of course it has to be reasonable and we’ll go anywhere especially if it is close by,” he said.

For now, as far as overseas aspirations are concerned, Seemar can look forward to next year’s Saudi Cup card. And if he did have a few names already in mind for making the short trip, he kept them to himself. After all, revealing plans has never been part of his game plan.