Hamdan continues unwavering support to Jebel Ali Racecourse - GulfToday

Hamdan continues unwavering support to Jebel Ali Racecourse

Amir Naqvi

Mirza Al Sayegh

Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of the office of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum office, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE’s Minister of Finance and Industry, speaks during an interview with Gulf Today. Kamal Kassim / Gulf Today

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE’s Minister of Finance and Industry, is renowned across the globe for his love of horses and his exceptional support of horseracing.

Closer home, he has been a peerless champion of the sport, backing the iconic horse shoe-shaped Jebel Ali Racecourse for the past many years through his Shadwell breeding empire and its associates, and this year is not going to be any different.

Sheikh Hamdan is the owner of Shadwell, a global racing and breeding enterprise which encompasses Shadwell Estate Company Limited in Britain, Shadwell Farm in the US and Derrinstown Stud in Ireland.

Thanks to Sheikh Hamdan’s largesse and unwavering support, Jebel Ali Racecourse will open its doors for a glorious 29th season of racing on Oct.30, during which it will host a total of 11 meetings, including three internationally recognised races – the Jebel Ali Stakes, Jebel Ali Mile and Jebel Ali Sprint.

In an exclusive chat with the Gulf Today, Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of Sheikh Hamdan office, confirmed that the Deputy Ruler, and unwavering pillar of support, will again be standing tall behind Jebel Ali Racecourse.

“Talking on behalf of the three entities owned by Sheikh Hamdan, including Shadwell, Derrinstown Stud and Shadwell, I am so glad to say that they all have assured me of their support for the forthcoming season.

“Sheikh Hamdan is the biggest supporter of Jebel Ali Racecourse. There are four pillars which are key to the success of Jebel Ali racing which includes Sheikh Hamdan, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Jebel Ali management and media.”

Following specifications laid down by Sheikh Ahmed, the Jebel Ali race track and grandstand were constructed in 1990. It was designed in the style of Epsom, the famous Derby course in England, which is renowned for its undulating twists and turns.

The Racecourse hosted its first ever meeting in January, 1992 and has never looked back since. It has been a historical journey.

“I am delighted to see that many other sponsors have remained with us in this journey despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the world for the past seven months.

“These sponsors are extending their support to Jebel Ali Racecourse because they are very loyal and are with us for the past many years, and this loyalty is very important and deserves respect,” Sayegh added.

Due to the global health implications of COVID-19 and precautionary measures being implemented by the UAE government, the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) had cancelled the remainder of the 2019-2020 racing season in March and later the 25th edition of the Dubai World Cup was also called off.

The decision by the Emirates Racing Authority to cancel the season came when only six race meetings of the season – scheduled to be held at Meydan, Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain - were left on the calendar.

But the horseracing community has now turned the page on that season. The new season is here and it will offer 66 races, starting with the opening night at Al Ain Racecourse on Thursday.

Jebel Ali and Sharjah Longines Racecourse will commence their seasons on Friday, Oct.30 and Saturday, Oct.31 respectively, while racing at Meydan gets underway on Nov. 5, and Abu Dhabi Racecourse will start its season on Sunday, Nov. 8.

In light of COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures laid down by the UAE health authorities, the new season will be without fans.

Jebel Ali Racecourse is renowned among crowds for its ‘garden party’ atmosphere - the racecourse features a children’s play area and a host of other attractions and grassy slopes where families picnic.

Hundreds of fans usually flock to the racecourse on race nights, but any hopes of allowing a few of them into the stands have been dashed due to the public health guidelines in place.

Speaking about the restrictions placed on fans, Sayegh said Jebel Ali is not only a racecourse but a meeting room for people from all walks of life. “They come here and enjoy the racing. Public is one of the pillars of success and if we exclude them that means we lost one pillar.

“But nothing we can do as far as government guidelines and safety measures to contain the virus are concerned,” he added.

Sheikh Hamdan had its own share of success at the Jebel Ali Racecourse last season. Prominent among them was the 1000m Listed Jebel Ali Sprint which was dominated by Musabbeh Al Mheiri, who saddled three runners for Sheikh Hamdan and provided the owner with the first two home.

However, their defending champion, Thammin and Jim Crowley, had to settle for the silver medal this year as they were unable to get past Alkaraama on whom Antonio Fresu was sporting a red cap suggesting he was considered the team’s third string.

Sheikh Hamdan and Mheiri have now combined to win this race on four occasions, including with subsequent Group 1 winner Muarrab in 2015.

His another horse Oktalgano, trained by Salem bin Ghadayer, was a convincing winner of a 1600m maiden restricted to 3-year-olds.

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