OUTSIDE of the feature Group 3 Bahrain International Trophy yesterday, the biggest winners’ purse on the supporting card was €10,000. Owning racehorses in this country is not about prize money, but very much about prestige.
Yet the racing scene in Bahrain is emerging, thanks to wholehearted support from the royal family. Rather than pump an inordinate amount of money and make an immediate impact with a wow factor, Shaikh Salman told me on Thursday evening that there is a vision for the development of racing in the region, and a carefully planned infrastructure is being put in place.
Among the developments going on in the background is the jockeys’ school, where Irishman Paddy Flood is a key motivator and highly regarded. Bahrain is tapping into the best international practices, and partnering with globally recognised companies and organisations. In a decade I envisage that racing in Bahrain will be at another level completely.
Key to gaining international recognition is to have a race of such status that key figures wish to send their horses to run. The growth in interest, quality and participation in the £500,000 Bahrain International Trophy has been enormously gratifying for the Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club.
The fact that the race, in just its third year, has been afforded Group 3 status is testament to its immediate impact. It is fair to say that it is well on its ascent to Group 2 level, and in time the REHC must hope it will reach the highest level. I am certain it will.
New opportunities such as this have a very positive effect in many quarters, none more so than at the sales. Check out how many horses with form are sold to the Middle East, and competition for many of the better lots involves bidders from neighbouring Gulf States - the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
All of these positive developments filter down to the producers, fuelling demand for horses of all ages. Good resale values for horses in training create a demand for yearlings, and this feeds into the strong foal trade we are currently witnessing.
In Bahrain the racing leaders have decided to focus on attracting horses a tier below group status too, and from next month they are introducing a new turf series, aimed at runners rated 85-100. Horses above this level will have Dubai on their radar. The race series will have a total of £550,000 in prize money and the aim is to make racing in the Kingdom of Bahrain more competitive.