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Our amazing trip to Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

"Nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend."


Our wonderful host Fahd

It’s a frosty morning and the temperature is quite low. The forecast was for fog, and quite thick at that, but thank goodness we haven’t had any at all. We have had two non-runners and a new starter, so only one down this morning. Plus we had an interview booked for 10 o’clock, but they have not turned up, so I have wasted another half an hour waiting around. I know everybody has staff problems worldwide, but when this happens on a regular basis, you realise that some people just don’t want to work. However, my good band are all in and working very happily together. The horses are having a good exercise and they look and feel very well, plenty of jumping about this morning and enthusiastic cantering. We will be having a couple of runners tomorrow and one on Thursday.

White Camel Foals

     04_Camels     05_Camels
Camels grazing

Angie and I have just had a few days away in Saudi Arabia by the very kind invitation of Fahd and his father. For those of you who met him when he was over here, Fahd trains in Saudi and is a very focused, determined and talented young man. He is third in the trainers’ list at present and no doubt will keep improving the standard of his horses in training. We were very well looked after in fact thoroughly spoilt, and shown around the stables, the racecourse and the farms. It is all tremendously interesting and they were keen to have any feedback from us on all aspects.

The stallions, broodmares and young stock look amazing. They live in sand paddocks. They are fed really well with top quality feed and have plenty of water. There are open structures which give them ample shade. I am sure the sunshine helps, for although there was limited grass, all the animals, horses and camels look marvellous. It was fascinating to see.

Racing in Riyadh

On the Friday of our visit we went to the races. With 10 races it was interesting to see how they were run and the set up. It is a dirt track suited to the American style and American pedigrees. The general steward is Phil Tuck, who I have known for donkey’s year’s way back to when I first came into racing. He is doing a great job out there getting the rules and regulations sorted out and it can only go one way, up.

The capital Riyadh, is an amazing city which is growing at an unbelievably quick rate. There are new buildings going up everywhere, a Metro and an underground. I would think there will be a major sporting competition there within the next five to ten years.

I cannot thank our hosts enough for giving us such an amazing experience.

View across the farm

The Jockey Club have announced an additional £4.2 million into prize money for next year. There will be prize money down to 8th place in the majority of races, which will certainly help with expenses. My main concern here though is that it should go to the middle to lower range horses, rather than to the big boys, who are at the moment are taking most of the prize money. “Always reward the best” is what I hear at a lot of meetings, especially from the trainers with 200 plus horses, but the prize money in the lower regions has been disastrous for many years and we have got to encourage new owners, who are not multi-millionaires, into the industry. I was reading this morning in the Racing Post a bloodstock agent saying £60,000 was not an expensive horse. Well to me and most normal people £60,000 is a lot of money and to encourage new owners we need to show that they can get some return on their investment. I hope this prize money initiative, which is very welcome, goes to the right people to help the future of the sport, which I know the Jockey Club has at heart, but I would just hold fire on my opinion until we see what actually happens.