In 2011 the President of the UAE Cup Race became the first Arabian race ever run under the iconic twin spires at world famous Churchill Downs race track. In 2012 the same race won a berth for Arabian runners on the card at Pimlico on Preakness Day, a first for that track as well. This year the race is back at Churchill Downs and slated for late evening on Steven Foster Day, second in importance only to the Kentucky Derby’s first Saturday in May at Churchill’s meet. The Grade 1, 1-1/16 miles race offers $100,000 added, making it a handsome purse for the owner and a sterling credential for the winning horse.
Over the past few weeks the race has narrowed from 14 to 8 starters, but they include Darley winners and nominees, and among them are some of the best Arabian horses racing in America today. The current favorite is Valiant Boy SBFAR, the entry of owner Guy Neivens and trainer, Ron Martino. Sired by Darweesh out of Thumbprint by Barbour De Cardonne, Valiant Boy SBFAR is French-bred and raised and was raced successfully in France prior to his arrival in America. The grey stallion began racing here in 2012 and has won five of his eight starts, including the Gr 3 Texas Derby, the Gr 2 Bob Magness Memorial and the Gr 2 Valour Farms Stakes. He was also named the 2012 Darley Horse of the Year. Manager Sharon Clark of Rigbie Farm calls him a “… sensible, good natured horse,” who likes to run long and come from off the pace. Viable competitors in the race include 2012 Darley 3-Year-Old of the Year, Smoke House, sired by Kaolino and bred and owned by Paul and Kathy Smoke. With just three starts, two firsts and a second, Smoke House has shown his determination to run gamely and finish strongly.
Another 4-year-old with obvious breeding and talent is Rosebrook Farms’ Sand Blastt, a Burning Sands son owned by savvy Arabian racing breeder and owner Dianne Waldron and her daughter Leah. Waldron has been breeding and racing Arabians for 30 years and owns around 80 horses, 10 of them currently in race training at Delaware Park.
“Sand Blastt is a full brother to 2-time Darley Horse of the Year Sand Witchh,” Dianne says. “He’s young and up-and-coming, with just four races so far, 2 firsts and 2 seconds.” Well known trainers Randy Nunley and his wife Tracy are working with Sand Blastt, as well as two other President of the UAE Cup entries, Smoke House and Spin Doctor. Breeder Kathy Smoke likes Spin Doctor’s chances in the race. “He’s better than ever,” says Kathy. “He’s big, strong and very game. Watching him come down the lane … he’s like a freight train!”
Also racing multiple runners in the UAE race is Lynn Ashby, 6-time Darley Trainer of the Year winner. Both of her entries are 4-year-old stallions. The first, In X Hess, is a son of one of Europe’s top Arabian race horses and sires, Dahess, and out of a Wiking daughter. Cre-Run Enterprises and its owners Deb Mihaloff and Alan Kirshner think very highly of this horse. Though he’s only had two races (1,2), he’s run well and shows great potential. The other Ashby entry is the Nivour De Cardonne son, Secret Treasour, a Darley nominee whose 9 races have shown him to be consistently at the top, with only one placing below third thus far in his career.
At 9, the oldest horse in the race is So Big Is Better, like Sand Blastt a son of leading Arabian racing sire, Burning Sand. A veteran of 7 racing seasons, So Big Is Better has more age, more races (46) and a fancier LTE ($215,490) than any other entry. Though certainly older than his competition, “So Big” has been a consistently sound, strong runner through the years, frequently winding up in the money. He’s also noted for his game, big-hearted finishes. Owner-trainer Mark Powell is pleased with Big’s most recent races and has brought in the horse’s favorite jockey, Kelsey Purcell, to ride him in the Churchill race. “He likes her,” notes Powell, “it shows in his races and that’s good!”
The President of the UAE Cup is just one of several grand races for Arabian horses globally, featuring races at the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, the Dubai World Cup, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Irish Guineas and Derby days in a number of countries. The Churchill Downs race is slated to run at 10:42 pm Saturday evening June 15th. Attend the race or watch the fun with the rest of the Arabian racing world on www.ArabianHorseGlobal.com.