Arabian Racing: Purses in the $Millions

By Linda White

This just announced: a $1 million bonus will go to the winner of the 2015 Qatar Triple Crown for racing Arabians. This is a huge show of support for the global promotion of Arabian racing. First of the new Arabian Triple Crown’s Arabian races will be run during the inaugural Qatar Goodwood Festival, coming up July 28 through August 1, 2015. A stunning £2m in prize money will be offered in the 5-day celebration’s eight key races; that amount could be increased year by year. Total prize monies for the week will exceed £4.5m. A recently created 10-year partnership between Qatar and Goodwood Racecourse, in West Sussex, England, represents one of the largest sponsorships British racing has ever seen.

qatar arabian raceThe second jewel in the Qatar Triple Crown for Arabians will be October’s Qatar Arabian World Cup, held during Qatar Prix weekend at Paris’s Hippodrome Longchamp. Beautiful Longchamp, inaugurated by Napoleon III in 1857, is considered France’s temple of racing. The Qatar Arabian World Cup, will be run on Sunday, October 5th. Its existing $1 million purse, and its inclusion in the Triple Crown, makes it the most important race of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend. The third jewel is the H.H. Emir Sword Festival Grade 1 Stakes race, which will be run during the H.H. Emir 24th International Equestrian Sword Festival in Doha, Qatar in 2016.

A full calendar of Arabian races with handsome payoffs is in place throughout the United States, England, France, Germany and Sweden, and three more $1 million races for Arabians already exist. Newsworthy will be the Arabian stallion Valiant Boy’s March 28, 2015 run in the $1 million Kahayla Classic, with Kentucky Derby- and Belmont Stakes-winning jockey Joel Rosario in the irons. The Kahayla Classic will be on the card on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan, Dubai’s flagship racecourse. The second $1 million-dollar Arabian race is the Qatar Arabian World Cup, mentioned above. The third $1 million race for Arabians is the prestigious Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown, held in Abu Dhabi in November. There has never been a better time to own an Arabian race horse.
The money is almost irresistible, but the fascination plumbs depths far more profound than holding a winning ticket. Horse racing is unrivaled for the thrills and excitement it provides devotees at every level. Millions of modern racing fans gather annually on the first Saturday in May to enjoy the televised Kentucky Derby. Derby Day attendance at Churchill Downs, home of the legendary 141-year-old race, now exceeds 165,000. The Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, Thoroughbred racing’s other two jewels in the Triple Crown, likewise attract huge crowds, in the stands and in living rooms and sports bars everywhere.

Thoroughbred racing is the most publicized, but Arabian racing has been around all along. King Solomon had a stable of more than 2,000, and he wasn’t the first! In the late 1920s, foundation breeder General J. M. Dickinson was racing his Arabians, but alas, only against time, because at the time, there were no races for Arabians in Tennessee, or anyplace else. Yet readers and film-goers were surrounded by seductive portrayals of Arabian race horses.

Today’s most fervent Arabian horse enthusiasts point to Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion, first published in 1941, as their introduction to the breed they love. Farley’s 13-book Black Stallion series, and two Black Stallion movies that followed, have exposed countless young minds to Arabians, and to Arabians as race horses.

Another portal opened in 1948, when Rand McNally published King of the Wind, a fictionalized tale of the very real Godolphin Arabian, one of three 18th century desert-bred stallions officially recognized as the Thoroughbred breed’s foundation sires. [Note: the Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk were the other two.] A quick look at any modern Thoroughbred pedigrees also will reveal those three and many other Arabian stallions and mares among their ancestors. King of the Wind, written by Marguerite Henry and lushly illustrated by the peerless Wesley Dennis, introduced many more readers to the racing Arabian.

Interest in Arabian racing was revived 50 years later, when two real, live Arabian race horses became champion halter stallions at several of America’s biggest, most competitive shows. *Orzel, a Polish import, was 1967 U.S. National Champion Arabian Race Horse. A dubious distinction, given the time, but he had been raced successfully in Poland. The other halter-winning Arabian race horse was Kontiki. Born in the USA, Kontiki was victorious in the limited Arabian racing opportunities he was offered. Kontiki’s daughters and sons produced winning race horses, and both stallions’ profound influence on Arabian racing has continued into the present day. Mahra Sand, who is out of a Kontiki daughter, was chosen Darley 4-Year-old Filly of the Year. Flaming Tron Ku, son of Ibn Kontiki, was dead at seven, but sired 19 offspring, and earned $117,611 in 25 starts. Racing Hall of Fame stallion Sam Tiki’s dam, Kyla Tiki, was another Kontiki daughter. Sam Tiki earned $100,989 in 21 starts, and sired 224 offspring. (Both dollar amounts were lots of money in the 1980s.)

Creating Runners
Sam Tiki, a foal of 1985, is living out his retirement at Cre Run Horse Farms, in Doswell, Virginia. Alan Kirschner and his wife, Deborah Mihaloff, began developing their 180-acre race horse nursery in 1986. For nearly 30 years, Kirschner and Mihaloff have been tireless advocates for Arabian racing. Their knowledge, perseverance, passion and recognition of quality and talent, human and equine, have given them a powerful voice in the ever-growing international effort to advance Arabian racing.

Mihaloff reflects on the Cre Run breeding program. “Years ago, I asked a guest speaker at a racing seminar - the Thoroughbred breeder who owned Sir Ivor - what he bred for,” she remembers. “He said that the most important part of the horse was the shoulder. The shoulder has to support 60 per cent of the horse’s weight, so it should be long and well laid-back for strength. With the good shoulder come the deep heart girth (greater lung capacity and greater air intake) and high withers that create greater leverage, allowing the horse to move forward.

“For a race horse or performance horse in any discipline, a horse with a short, steep shoulder is never a good mover,” she continues. “Our breeding program is founded on that principle. We have traveled to Poland and all over Europe and the Middle East, looking for bloodstock that seemed most likely to produce our ideal. Critics sometimes suggest that Arabian race breeders don’t take type into consideration, but that’s not so. We are not alone among race breeders in breeding for Arabian type, no matter what the discipline.

“We have found that producing type goes back to the Egyptian Arabian; we successfully use Egyptian blood as our outcross. Our Machine, the 2007 Darley 3-Year-Old of the Year, has two crosses through his dam, Dreams R Forever, to the straight Egyptian mare, Dalya. I purchased Dalya (Dalul x *Watfa) at two from her breeder, Dr. John Coles. We now have two Our Machine foal crops on the ground, taking us into our fourth generation of Cre Run breeding.” Cre Run has bred or owned 23 Darley winners.

“Our primary goals as race breeders are first, that the horse should look like an Arabian; and secondly, that it should have a life after racing,” adds Mihaloff. Case in point: Darley Horse of the Year DA Adios, who stands at Cre Run, earned $622,048 on the track. Not surprisingly (how many Thoroughbreds can boast 34 starts?) his breeding career has brought him leading endurance sire status.

On A Cowboy Boot Budget
Growing up in Montana, Scott Powell bought his first horse, an Arabian, with money he earned summers, hauling hay. As his horse interest evolved, he discovered and successfully competed in endurance in the 1990s. A friendship with trainer Jerry Partin led him to Arabian racing. Powell had found his passion.

“Racing is tough and relentless,” Powell admits. “It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. Most of my racing competition had been established for years, with wealthy owners, and the backing to buy and breed only premium horses. How could a guy like me, on a cowboy boot budget, possibly compete?” Undaunted by the challenges facing them, Powell and his wife and partner, horsewoman Lori Long, applied hard work and their profound love of horses to their journey together. As one partner in a popular comedy duo once observed, it only took them 20 years to become an overnight success.

Speaking astrologically, their rise has been meteoric. In 2011 the couple established Quarter Moon Ranch, LLC, “Where Shooting Stars Are Created,” in New Mexico. In 2012, a year after founding their business, Powell was named the top Arabian race horse owner and trainer in the United States. The following year, one of their protégées, the Burning Sand filly Mahra Sand, out of a Kontiki daughter, became a Darley 4-Year-old Filly of the Year. In 2013 and 2014, MS Dixie, another Burning Sand daughter, won multiple races and broke longstanding track records, winning one race by 16 lengths!

Early on, Scott Powell tried to juggle a “real” job with training horses, but the horses won out. Lori, who admits to being horse crazy since she was a little girl, left a lucrative desk job in the family’s Michigan business to move west and follow her dream of doing something in the horse industry. She earned a degree as a veterinary assistant, helpful always, but especially now, as she and Scott work diligently to assure the continuing good health and soundness of the horses in their care.

“Scott and I are doing more than we ever dreamed,” she states. “Horse racing is a tough business, especially on a modest budget like ours when we started,” says Lori Powell. “You have to learn to do without, and to accept the huge highs and devastating lows that go with running your own business… but when you see a client’s horse headed down the home stretch, you know you've done your job, and that you are making someone's dreams come true.”

Jane and Ray Teutsch began their journey in Arabian racing 33 years ago. “Showing was so subjective,” she begins, “but the main reason we got into racing was that we felt breeding for flat croups and beautiful heads was hurting the Arabian’s athletic ability. We wanted to breed for a more functional, sounder horse. We love our Arabians’ intelligence and desire, and racing proves their soundness. And Arabians love to race.

“Racing Arabians has enriched our lives so much,” Teutsch reflects. “Sand On Fire is one of many Arabians we have bred, trained and raced successfully. When our ‘babies’ proves themselves on the track, and then succeed in a second career, the thrill and feeling of accomplishment are immeasurable.

“I like to go into the grandstand, where I can see the whole race, from start to finish. I can then discuss it later with the trainer and jockey. And each time a horse races, it learns something, and we learn something about that horse. When I watch my horses perform at their very best, I’m happy. Of course, it’s always more exciting when they win,” she concedes, smiling. “Ray and I have been to places we probably would never have gone otherwise: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, England, France and all over the USA,” she adds. “This is a very satisfying business.”

No matter how staid the audience, the spectacle of horses racing is truly overwhelming. The joy it brings the humblest, least-informed onlooker is unrivalled by anything the winningest Indy 500 car, basketball star or skiing champion will ever approach.

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