Qatar wins title at camel racing championship

HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani yesterday attended the end of the Gulf Camel Racing Tournament at its third edition. The two-day event was staged at Al Shahaniya camel race track where Qatar won the title of the year.

Qatar topped the championship with 24 medals, including six gold, eight silver and 10 bronze, followed by the UAE in second place with 10 medals, including six gold, four silver and one bronze, and Oman in third place with eight medals, including three gold, three silver and two bronze.  Kuwait came fourth with four medals, including two gold and two silver, and Saudi Arabia fifth with seven medals, one gold, one silver and five bronze.

HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani presented winners with trophies and gold medals. HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Faisal al-Thani, chairman of the Tournament Organising Committee, presented  silver and bronze medals.Photo credits: Mamdouh Buhairi

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Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani signalled his determination to oversee the “best racing operation” in the world with the launch of the UK arm of his Al Shaqab outfit.

Harry Herbert, the leading British turf figure and manager of the successful Highclere syndicate, has been appointed as a full-time racing adviser to the Qatari royal’s new British division, complete with new racing silks.

But Sheikh Joaan’s racing ambitions go well beyond fresh colours, with the aim of contesting the sport’s biggest prizes alongside the established global giants of Godolphin, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s international racing stable, and Coolmore, the Irish operation overseen by businessman John Magnier.

“To be competing with such organisations is an amazing feeling,” said Nasser Sherida al-Kaabi, Sheikh Joaan’s media manager, at Friday’s launch at London’s Dorchester Hotel.

“Our goals and objectives are to be the best racing operation in the world. We want the best horses, the best trainers and the best people and the appointment of Harry is to help secure our future.”

Sheikh Joaan’s horses have raced at the highest level internationally in 2013, with Treve’s victory in France’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s premier all-aged flat race, last month the most high-profile of four elite Group One wins.

Al Shaqab Racing has around 110 horses in training split between England and France, but the global aspirations of the organisation were highlighted by plans to send a handful of horses to race in America for Todd Pletcher next season.

The racing operation is just one part of the Al Shaqab plan, however, with a full-scale breeding operation also in the pipeline.

Sheikh Joaan broke the world record price at auction for a yearling last month when he paid five million guineas ($9.11 million) and the spending spree could continue.

Dancing Rain, the 2011 English Oaks winner, is in foal to Frankel, unbeaten in his 14-race career and once the highest-rated racehorse in the world, and is to be sold at Tattersalls in Newmarket, England, tomorrow.

“Frankel was a tremendous racehorse and has one of the best pedigrees in the world,” Al Kaabi said. “Nothing can stop him from being a great sire. We are going to buy good horses, and Dancing Rain is in our sights.”

It has been a meteoric rise within the ‘sport of kings’ for Sheikh Joaan. The 27-year-old had not seen a thoroughbred racehorse win in his grey and maroon silks before August 2012 but in Group One company this season, in addition to Treve, Toronado provided him with victory in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in England in July.

Olympic Glory, who handed the Sheikh his first win at the highest level last year in Paris, triumphed in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, south-west of London, last month.

“Sheikh Joaan has ambitious plans for Al Shaqab Racing and the exciting thing for me is to be involved at the highest level and be part of a team that is very serious about their aspirations,” Herbert said.

Sheikh Joaan has also signed arguably the world’s most famous jockey in Frankie Dettori as his retained rider and Al Kaabi revealed the Italian is set to mentor Faleh Bogunaim, a 21-year-old promising Qatari rider, next season.

“It is important that we show people that Qataris are interested in racing,” Al Kaabi added. “We hope one day Faleh might win a Group One. It would be a major joy for Sheikh Joaan and His Highness the Emir of Qatar.” AFP/Gulf Times

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