Author: Duane Fonseca
DUBAI’S ever changing skyline is proof of how much the city has grown. It is a place that is in a constant state of change, as if evolving to keep itself fresh for the world. Juxtaposed with that upwardly built facade, a tribute to the ultra modernism often associated with Dubai, is Zabeel Stables, home to the powerful string of horses trained by Satish Seemar. Driving past the gates, you are teleported to a time that is seemingly far from the contemporary. Standing within the white walls whose monotony is broken aptly by punctuations of burgundy and looking at the sight beyond, the contrast is evident. It’s like a time capsule left behind for a future generation to learn of a bygone era.
Seemar is happy to let things be the way they are, even as he builds from one season to the next. “Look at this place it’s so beautiful, we’ve seen Dubai develop from here, but we haven’t lost anything to modernity,” says Seemar, one of the oldest resident trainers in the UAE. “To some people it’s just a horse stable but we have 3300 trees here that are improving the environment. I know the numbers. When the place you work in is so pleasant how can you be sad. This place has remained the same over the years.” The truth in that is only as far as the actual edifice goes. Inside, modern technologies and processes are applied to ensure Zabeel are competitive season after season.
“The game has changed and over the last 27 years, this place has changed so much including the racing. We started with literally nothing and have come to a world level right now. No other nation has come so far doing things the right way in such a short time.” In his nearly three decades working as a trainer, Seemar has won five UAE trainers’ championships. The hunger is still evident and having started the season well, everyone at Zabeel Stables appears to have a spring in their step in anticipation of what lies ahead. “It’s always good to win and we have won the trainers’ title a few times in the past, so we know what it takes to get there,” said Seemar, who was last crowned Champion Trainer in 2006/07.
“To win the championships it’s always nice to have a good amount of Purebred Arabians in the yard because here the system takes into account both breeds and we don’t have many Purebred Arabians. “Most of the owners who have horses with me are Thoroughbred people, but I’m not disappointed because I know we are good and we’ll come back and win one of these years. “Winning the trainers’ championship is important to me, but for me good results matter and the welfare of horses is also important. “I can proudly say that my team and I have done our best and if we haven’t always been in the top three, we’ve been in the top five so that is good.
Of course, realistically we’ve lost the championships because we didn’t have enough Purebred Arabians.” Looking forward is something Seemar has always done and things seem to be shaping well for his operation this term. With seven wins so far he is among a quartet of handlers at the top of the leaderboard. “We have always been positive and this season has started perfectly for us. Just as we had planned,” Seemar said. “As you would have seen there were some horses who were trying the distances and the courses for the first time. “We’ve mostly sent out younger horses; those that were about two and three. The 2yo stage is a different one because they change overnight.
Their tastes and dislikes regarding distance and surface, everything changes. “At the start of the season this is what you do. Their placings give me more of an idea what to do with them. “The season depends a lot on the programme and it may suit certain trainers, that’s always the case. It’s your luck. “If your horses have hit the ceiling in terms of handicap marks, then apart from the good ones like North America, they will always have a problem starting the next season. You have to be very realistic about it.
“I divide my season that way. I let the young ones find their way, and prefer being realistic about which of the handicapped horses could become a Group horse.” North America was one truly special name developed under Seemar, who is particularly proud of the 6yo Dubawi gelding who went from shedding his maiden status as a Zabeel boarder to winning the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 last season which earned him a ticket to the Dubai World Cup. North America is part of the Zabeel Stables’ roster and Seemar is expecting his stable star to impress at the Dubai World Cup Carnival yet again.
He is also excited about new prospects who have arrived and those that are on their way to start life in his care in Dubai. “I will be receiving a few horses from the US and hopefully by January they should be here, ready to race. Towards December you’ll see some of the carnival selections coming out. Behavioral Bias and Irish Freedom are two horses I’ve received from the US and there are still more in quarantine,” Seemar said. “Some of the horses we bought from the Godolphin sale have a lot of potential and they are coming around well. We hope to start with them in December. I am hoping that from the 16 bought in the Godolphin sale, at least four to five will make it to the carnival.
“North America will go the same route as last season. Saltarin Dubai won a carnival race last year when we were still trying to figure him out. Raven’s Corner proved himself very well; he has the 7f track record on dirt at Meydan, the Godolphin Mile didn’t work out well for him, but he’s a strong performer.Welford was a good winner this season “There are a few new horses and the young ones are very exciting and I can only think they can do better. Last year three of our sales horses were running on Dubai World Cup day. They didn’t do well but we believe this year they will. There are a few horses on their way and they will be talked about in the future.”
While Seemar believes he is as competitive as he used to be, horse welfare is top priority. Seemar has a charity in his native state of Rajasthan in India that is working to keep the ‘Marwari’ breed alive. “I like competition and competition can be taken in two ways: being over competitive or sensibly competitive,” he said. “I opt for the second one and because when you’re dealing with something that is living you have to be compassionate. “Horses have feelings and they get aches and pains and have bad days and as long as you realise that, it’s fine. “We love to be competitive and it keeps us going. We love to win races, but it doesn’t come easy, you have to keep trying harder and harder. It’s important to keep going year after year like this place called Dubai.”