Bahrain International Trophy Preview

Seven champion jockeys from around the world will be in action when nine top-quality challengers from Europe compete against five of the best locally-trained runners in the Bahrain International Trophy.

The first race in the country to feature horses from overseas, at the Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club (REHC) at Sakhir on Friday (22 November). The race, to be run over 2,000m, will offer a total prize fund of £500,000.

Afaak parading on 19 Jun, 2019
Afaak parading on 19 Jun, 2019 Picture: Pat Healy Photography

Speaking after the post position draw, held at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay on Wednesday lunchtime, Shaikh Salman bin Rashed Al Khalifa, the REHC executive director, said: "Attracting so many top owners, trainers, jockeys and horses for our first international race has exceeded our expectations and means a lot for Bahrain, but I am sure this is only the beginning of a successful journey to establish our country in the racing calendar."

The six British-trained runners include this year's Royal Ascot winnerAfaak , owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose younger brother Sheikh Mohammed is responsible for Turgenev, who will run in the all-blue colours of the Godolphin operation for the first time and was a runner-up at the Royal meeting for Britain's champion trainer John Gosden.

Eqtidaar and Jim Crowley returns to scale
Eqtidaar and Jim Crowley returns to scale Picture: Racing and Sports

Former champion jockey Jim Crowley rides Afaak for trainer Charles Hill, while three-time leading rider Silvestre de Sousa is flying in from Hong Kong, where he is based during the British winter, to ride Pivoine for his principal retaining owner King Power Racing and trainer Andrew Balding.

The other British-trained runners are Aquarium , who is having his third outing for trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam after registering six wins for Mark Johnston and will be ridden for the first time by Richard Kingscote; Mountain Angel, twice a winner at Epsom this year for trainer Roger Varian and Friday's jockey Andrea Atzeni; and Coolagh Forest, having his first race for trainer Paul d'Arcy after being bought out of Richard Fahey's stable for 125,000gns by his Bahrain International Trophy rider John Egan on behalf of local owner Mohammed Khalid A Rahim at the Tattersalls sales in Newmarket three weeks ago.

AQUARIUM  Picture: (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

France has two representatives, including Intellogent, the first overseas-trained winner of a Group 1 race to run in Bahrain after his success in last year's Prix Jean Prat. He is trained by Fabrice Chappet and will be ridden by dual champion jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who crowned his season by winning last month's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Waldgeist. Royal Julius, the other challenger from France, trained by Jerome Reynier, will be ridden by former champion jockey Stephane Pasquier.

Completing the line-up of European runners is Sword Peinture , from Andreas Suborics' stable in Germany. The only filly in the field, she has already run in France and Italy, as well as her home country, this year.

The remaining trio of title-winning jockeys – Gerald Mosse and Brett Doyle, the current and a previous local champion, and Adrie de Vries, who was leading rider in Germany – have been booked by local connections, who will be hoping to collect the magnificent solid silver trophy which has been fashioned by the House of Garrard and will be awarded to the winning owner.

Mosse has chosen to ride Rustang for Bahrain's perennial champion trainer Allan Smith in preference to the remarkable Thorkhill Star, who boasts 19 wins in Bahrain and is on a ten-race winning streak after landing seven-from-seven last season, and on whom James Doyle is taking the mount.

Brett Doyle, who has also been champion jockey in the UAE, will ride Proposed, a likely pace-setter, for owner-trainer Jaber Ramadhan. De Vries is aboard Vale Do Sol, a previous winner of the Bahrain Gold Cup, for trainer Hesham Al Haddad and owner HH Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa's Victorious operation, whose colours will also be carried by Euginio, who has had two runs since joining trainer Fawzi Nass, both at Meydan in the UAE in January.

Commenting on the importance of Friday's venture, Nass said: "This is very significant for racing in Bahrain, and it is an honour to have these horses and their connections in our homeland."

In echoing Nass's thoughts, Shaikh Salman bin Rashed Al Khalifa added: "As well as benefiting our racing, I believe the event will do a lot to help tourism in Bahrain. We have put in place a schedule of events that will enable visitors to have a look at our country, which will add value to their experience. Our aim is for everyone to leave with a positive image of Bahrain."

Shaikh Salman paid tribute to the REHC's local partners – Gulf Air, Bapco and Batelco – and to those associated with managing the racecourse. He said: "Everyone involved in making the race meeting happen has worked from the heart."

He also praised the work of Neil Mackenzie-Ross, who joined the REHC as facilities manager and clerk of the course five years ago, saying: "Neil has done a magnificent job with the turf course under difficult conditions, and those trainers who have been to the track have been most complimentary."

Mackenzie-Ross, who spent nine years in a similar role at Lingfield Park in England before moving to Bahrain, added: "The reason for coming to live and work in Bahrain was to get to a position where we could have international racing, so there is a real sense of achievement about staging the Bahrain International Trophy."

Racing and Sports