The island’s inaugural international horserace was a historic success, marking the beginning of a new era of world-class competition in the Kingdom.
ROYAL JULIUS, trained by Jerome Reynier in Marseille, France took victory in a thrilling finish to the Bahrain International Trophy, the first event in the country to feature horses from overseas, at the Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club (REHC) at Sakhir.
The race, run over 2,000m, featured nine top-quality challengers from Europe taking on four of the best locally-trained runners including Rustang, representing champion trainer Allan Smith, who appeared sure to keep the valuable prize in the Kingdom.
After racing to the front before halfway under jockey Lee Newman, a last-minute substitute for the injured Gerald Mosse, Rustang held the lead by ten lengths 400m from the finish and was six lengths clear entering the final 200m. The leader’s stride began to shorten however, and the chasing pack closed in, led by Royal Julius with a long, steady run on the outside of the track. Royal Julius took the lead less than 100m from the winning post, carrying former French champion jockey Stephane Pasquier across the line to victory.
Royal Julius claimed the first prize and a magnificent solid silver trophy fashioned by Garrard for owner Jean-Jacques Biarese. Turgenev, trained in Britain by John Gosden, also did his best work in the late stages and overtook Rustang by a head for second place. Afaak, representing British trainer Charles Hills, finished a close fourth.
Reynier, who has been training for five years, commented: “The conditions were ideal for my horse, who needs a strong pace on good ground, and Stephane, who had never ridden him before, rode a brilliant race. He had a wide draw but that did not worry me, because he was able to keep out of trouble before making his run in the straight.
“Royal Julius is a small horse but he has a big heart and a great mind, which made all the difference today. I would also like to thank everyone associated with the race for welcoming us to Bahrain so well.”
Pasquier, one of seven international champion jockeys taking part in the race, added: “It has been exciting to ride in Bahrain and I am delighted to have won the first edition of this important race.”
Robert Havlin, jockey of Turgenev, took the narrow defeat in his stride, adding: “The pace was very quick from the start but my horse showed plenty of spirit in the straight. This is a lovely track and it has been a great experience.”
Reflecting on the success of the day, the Deputy Chairman of the High Committee for REHC, His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa highlighted HM the King’s commitment to supporting the Kingdom’s equestrian heritage, adding that the hosting of this inaugural international horserace is a testament to the Kingdom’s leading position in equestrian sports. In this regard, HH Shaikh Isa noted the broad range of racing breeds participating in the event, as well as the high ratings achieved by the participating jockeys.
HH Shaikh Isa further lauded the efforts of Bahrain’s young stewards for their success organising such a successful international race. HH Shaikh Isa also emphasised the fierce competition between the participants of each race, noting the impressive track records across various horse racing events around the world.
Shaikh Salman bin Rashed Al Khalifa, REHC Executive Director, added: “We are all very happy with the result, and thanks go to our High Committee for making the event happen. It was a beautiful day. We will learn from this first experience, but it was nonetheless satisfying that our Bahraini horses put up such strong competition.”
The event was staged in association with local partners Gulf Air, BAPCO and Batelco.
As well as being shown live locally on Bahrain TV, coverage of the feature race was watched in over 60 countries worldwide through the UK-based Racecourse Media Group’s distribution network, broadcasting the event throughout Europe and across the world from the Caribbean to China and Australia.