T M Fred Texas became the first winner of an Arabian race at historic Churchill Downs racetrack when he pulled past Dixies Valentine at the top of the stretch to take the Grade I, $52,500 United Arab Emirates President’s Cup by 9¼ lengths last Saturday afternoon, June 18th.
Sired by leading Arabian racing stallion Burning Sand out of a daughter of top French Arabian racing sire Kong, T M Fred Texas has broken track records at Arapahoe Park in Colorado and Sam Houston racetrack in Texas but was untested beyond a mile before Saturday’s race.
It was a different story at Churchill Downs. Early Saturday morning a dramatic thunder and lightning storm brought torrential rain to Louisville which continued to alter Churchill Downs’ track condition throughout the morning. By afternoon the track was deemed “sloppy” and racehorse scratches became commonplace for the balance of the card. The Arabians, however, had come to Kentucky to run. The question was only which horses could handle the mud and the distance.
Grilla left the post with jockey Bill Hollick as the 3-5 favorite and chose to set the early pace side by side with his half-sister Dixies Valentine, a solid 3-1 with celebrity jockey Calvin Borel in the irons. T M Fred Texas and jockey Santos Chavez chose to stay off the pace until the final turn and then made their play from the outside. Grilla began to fall back at the top of the stretch but Dixies Valentine, the only mare in the race, gamely stayed with T M Fred Texas until the final eighth. T M Fred Texas continued his steady drive, opening his lead to nine plus lengths at the finish line.
Much of the talk about Texas horses not running in the mud was put to rest along with pre-race comments about offspring of Burning Sand not being able to run classic distances.
“I think the move to Ron Martino has been a good one,” Moak said. “The horse is fit and ready for the mud and the distance. Everything about this horse’s pedigree spells success. His sire and dam both lead the charts as producers and his younger brother, T M Junior Johnson, currently at Delaware Park, is already two for two as a three-year-old.”
The only mare in the race, Dixies Valentine (Nivour de Cardonne x Dixie Darlene), had been back in training for just a short time following a rest. During her time off she produced several embryos carried by surrogate broodmares and produced two colts and a filly in 2011. Trainers Randy and Tracy Nunley, representing owner Guy Nievens, were pleased to have gotten rider Calvin Borel signed as jockey for Dixies Valentine in the President’s Cup. When asked if he had any advice for the celebrity jockey and winner of three Kentucky Derbys between 2007 and 2010, Nunley noted that Borel was “… a master on the track at Churchill Downs” and knew what he was doing.
Owner Sam Vasquez was in the Clubhouse for the entire afternoon following the race at his table with family and friends savoring the victory and enjoying the limelight. It would be difficult to overstate the thrill of the moment for the man or for any of the trainers and owners competing on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
“This is as good as it gets,” said Sam Vasquez standing beneath the iconic twin spires in the Churchill Downs winner’s circle holding his precious trophy close. “This is what we all work for and it makes everything worthwhile.”
Churchill Downs, considered to be the most famous racetrack in the world, has been conducting Thoroughbred racing and America’s greatest horserace, the Kentucky Derby, since 1875. The UAE President’s Cup for Arabian horses on June 18th, 2011 marks the first time any breed of horse besides Thoroughbreds has run on that historic track.
The President of the United Arab Emirates Cup series is two decades old, though its’ initial appearance in the United States outside of Delaware Park was just last fall at Keeneland. It is an international racing series for Arabian horses that includes races in France, Germany, England, Ireland, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. It is considered to be the premier international racing series for the Arabian horse.