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It would be fair to say that jockeys based in the UAE over the winter months are a spoilt lot. Not only do they have just three meetings a week to ride at, the distance they have to travel to get to the races is nothing compared to the miles they have to clock up on Britain’s pothole-ridden and clogged up roads.
With the furthest racetrack just one hour’s drive away in Abu Dhabi, you can see why the riders like to come out here for six months of the year.
However, it doesn’t mean that some are shirking from suffering long days.
One of the busiest jockeys in the UK weighing room, Luke Morris, has been on holiday here for the last week whilst he sits out a suspension acquired on the all-weather back in Blighty. Well, I say holiday, but it can’t feel much like one.
Qatar is a nation with a growing horse racing industry. Some say that in five years time it will match the reputation and prize money that Dubai has to offer. That’s not to say the cash up for grabs at the minute is to be missed and jockeys won’t pass up on a chance to earn a few quid.
Morris jetted off to Qatar from Dubai for the ride on Hototo in Tuesday’s feature race – the Group 3 Invitation Cup. The pair finished 3rd, netting owner/trainer Fawzi Nass £5,500 for his troubles.
Hospitality is something the Arabs do well but Morris had no time for that with a chocka-block diary so he went straight to the airport for the two hour flight back to Dubai, landed at 4.30am and then got a taxi directly to the International Stables and gave Secret Asset his final piece of work before he runs at Meydan this weekend.
That’s not my idea of a holiday!
Back to Qatar though, there were some familiar names on show during the night.
The opener was part of the Fegentri series for amateur riders where a representative from 12 of the world’s biggest racing nations ride against each other on local horses all across the globe. Team GB rep for this season is Freddie Mitchell (brother of Jack) and he got the job done by winning the 7f contest.
Down the field in 7th was a horse called One Cool Bex – last seen in Britain winning at Wolverhampton in October 2010 when trained by Charlie McBride. He’s won 4 races since moving to his new home.
Whilst half of the card is designated to purebred Arabian horses (where another Brit – Julian Smart – mops up) there are still plenty of blasts from the past contesting the remaining races.
The big race itself where Hototo finished third was won by Roi De Vitesse whom some may recall finished 2nd in the 2009 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket’s July Meeting.
Whilst it’s pretty hard to get a good job in Dubai as a leading jockey, intrepid pilots have seen an opening across the pond in Qatar and after reading the list of declarations, you could be forgiven for thinking you are at Doncaster rather than Doha.
Andrew Elliot, Darren Williams, Mark Lawson, Saleem Golam and Brett Doyle are just some of the formerly British based riders to be paving the way in Qatar.
It’s still early days but don’t be surprised if the tiny nation of Qatar starts to grow on the racing map.