The chief executive of Ascot Racecourse, Guy Henderson, said his arrival in Dubai last week was purely to boost racing relations between the two countries. Henderson soaked in all of the Super Saturday action at Meydan on Saturday a day after visiting Jebel Ali as he made what has become his annual relationship building pilgrimage to the UAE. This year though, there was a slight twist in the tale with the entire Ascot top brass joining him on the trip for what Henderson said was the ‘first board meeting outside the UK in 300 years of the racecourse’s existence’. Al Adiyat caught up with Henderson to find out more about his trip... Welcome again to Dubai. What brings you to Dubai this time?
It’s as ever an honour to come to Dubai and visit both Jebel Ali and Meydan, particularly during Super Saturday week. Over the last ten years, 57 Dubai-owned horses have won at Royal Ascot and the racecourse’s relationship with Dubai is very, very important because of the support of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the entire Maktoum family. On Friday morning, with the very kind hospitality of Meydan and support of HE Saeed Al Tayer and Malih Al Basti, we had a board meeting here in Dubai and that’s probably the first time Ascot has had a board meeting outside the UK. It’s the first time for 300 years and we felt it was a fantastic opportunity for the whole board to come to Dubai and to see our dear friends and contacts here and at the same time enjoy some wonderful racing.
The UK enjoys massive support from the UAE in particular, could you tell us more? It is very, very important to us indeed. So many of the wonderful horses that race at Royal Ascot are Dubai and Gulf owned. That relationship stemming from the Gulf has parallels in that we share their horsemanship and love of the horse, which is very, very important to us. We have always enjoyed wonderful support from Dubai owners. We value our relationship with all our partners here. We are in the 19th year of our wonderful relationship with Dubai Duty Free, who are the sponsors of the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup which is a fascinating racemeeting that features international jockeys from around the world.
Over the last two years, we’ve had top jockeys from nine different countries ride in a random computer programmed series of handicapped races in teams. Our partners are just great for the sport. What strikes you about racecourses in Dubai? It’s an honour to be here and also visit Jebel Ali which is the oldest racecourse in the UAE. It is a very interesting racetrack for someone visiting from the UK because many racecourses in the UK finish on a hill. Ascot has a steady climb and many others have a climb, so it’s a very good place to train racehorses for running in the UK. It is a good test for the horse.