GOLDEN POWER Bahrain Racing continues its rise as Golden Horde bids for July Cup glory

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09 July, 2020

The Kingdom of Bahrain is fast becoming a major force in global racing.

CovefWith its flagship International Trophy in November and sponsorship of two major days at Newmarket, there are few countries worldwide with as exciting or growing a portfolio.

Jockeys pose for the cameras before last year's Bahrain International Trophy

One of the driving forces behind Bahrain’s emergence is Sheikh Salman bin Rashed Al-Khalifa, who, as Executive Director of Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club, knows exactly what’s needed to put his country on the racing map.

He said: “Racing is very popular here in Bahrain. We love the sport and we love horses.

“The main goal is to have highly-rated horses come to Bahrain to race. With our biggest contest falling in November, I think it’s perfect for other countries as it comes at a good point in the calendar.”

Like the Saudi Cup at Riyadh, the Bahrain International Trophy has already become a pilgrimage destination for plenty of trainers seeking riches in the Arabian Gulf.

Sheikh Salman bin Rashed Al-Khalifa talks to Luke Harvey after the Bahrain Trophy

The first edition of the race last year attracted runners for John Gosden, Roger Varian, Charlie Hills, Andrew Balding and Fabrice Chappet - and with a mammoth first prize of £250,000 up for grabs, it’s easy to see why.

Salman added: “It’s been the hope since we started to lure big trainers from around the world.

“Our marketing team has done a fine job and last year’s contest was viewed by 130 million people.

“I’m extremely happy with the reach and it’s fair to say the Kingdom of Bahrain is now firmly on people’s radar.”

As has been the case for the last 29 years, Newmarket’s Bahrain Trophy is one of the highlights of the opening day of the July meeting.

However, for the first time Bahrain Racing is also sponsoring the Sir Henry Cecil Stakes, a Listed contest for three-year-olds - with the winner receiving an automatic invitation to the Bahrain International Trophy itself later in the year.

Sheikh Salman said: “The team in charge of organising our sponsorship decided to introduce two races with automatic entry to the International Trophy - the Sir Henry Cecil on Thursday, and the Group 3 Darley Stakes in October.

“It gives horses the chance to run in the race who might not get the chance otherwise. 

Stephane Pasquier and Royal Julius celebrate after winning the Bahrain International Trophy

 “We have a very strong relationship with the Jockey Club and with Newmarket and enjoy working with them.”

The Bahrain International Trophy is very much in its infancy, but Salman hopes the classy contest will continue to bloom.

“With any luck Bahrain can carry on hosting top class races and the International Trophy will go from strength to strength.

“The race adds value to Bahrain in every way. It’s a nice opportunity for tourism and gives people a chance to sample our culture.

Stephane Pasquier bows to the crowd after his victory in the Bahrain International Trophy

“We’re seeking to upgrade our status as a racing nation from Part 3 to Part 2, and hopefully soon we can do that.”

Bahraini ownership has become more prominent in the last few years and Golden Horde, owned by AlMohamediya Racing, will bid to land their biggest payday so far.

Successful in the Commonwealth Cup, the three-year-old sprinter is going places fast and will take his elders in Saturday’s Group 1 contest.

Salman said: “The Commonwealth Cup was a big day for Bahrain.

“His Royal Highness deserved the victory as he’s been fully involved in British racing for four or five years now. 

“It will be a big challenge facing the older horses but he was impressive at Royal Ascot and Clive Cox thinks the horse is improving.

“We had two winners at the Saudi Cup meeting earlier in the year and to be able to have horses who can perform on the big stage is so important.

“We’re very hopeful Golden Horde can win again.”

By Tom Bull - The Sun

Cover image credit: PA: Press Association