First international race-meeting in Romania

On 1st July, the first international Arabian race in Romania took place at the Ploiesti racetrack. For the first time ever, more than 2000 visitors followed races of Shagya-Arabians, Shetland Ponys, Trotters, English Thoroughbreds – and, of course, pureberd Arabians!

After a timid demonstration-race of purebred Arabians last fall, I could convince Lara Sawaya, director of the HH Sh Mansoor Festival, to support racing in Romania. A “Wathba Stallion Cup” was planned for 1st of July this year in Ploiesti, a brand-new, lovely and efficient race-track not far away from Bucharest, which offers regularly trotting meetings but has also a nice turf-track, unfortunately never used until now!

Miracle Workers at Work

But before this was going to happen, Guillaume Fillet, President of ARAC (the Romanian Association of Arabian Race Horses) had a long and tedious path to go. It included convincing the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, the Jockey Club, the authorities of the track and last but not least some owners of purebred Arabians of this project, the first international purebred Arabian race in Romania. Unfortunately, as the National Stud of Mangalia had neglected parentage control during the communist era, many Arabians were not eligible for WAHO-acceptance (and thus not for the Romanian Stud-book), and so, an important number of horses had to be rejected from this project. In May and June the first two preparation races were staged during trotting-meetings.
The raceday of the first “Wathba Stallions Cup” had to be more festive and Guillaume, with his convincing, but calm attitude, convinced the association Shagya Romania, the Trotting Federation, the Shetland Pony’s and last but not least the Romanian Jockey Club to each stage one or two races during the same meeting.
For the “Wathba Stallions Cup” there was enough entries from Romania alone to fill the race, but not enough jockeys to ride them all! So, it was decided to attract some horses from Bulgaria and split the horses in two groups: the young ones (3 and 4 years old) and the elder ones in the “Wathba Stallions Cup”. It is thus by lack of jockeys in Romania that there was two races for Arab horses and that the meeting became international! It is the aim to work in the future on international races for the Balkan countries: Hungary having financial possibilities but are lacking race-horses, Bulgaria having racehorses but no ad-hoc racetrack and Romania just missing jockeys. Attracting and schooling of jockeys is the next priority for Romania.

Record Number of Visitors

Despite the heavy rainfall during the four days preceding the race-day, when it wasn’t sure whether to cancel or not to cancel the whole event, it was in the end the director of the track to bring the solution by offering to run some of the gallop races on the trotting track, which was softened by the ample rain.
The meeting started before all visitors had the chance to enter the location. The number of attendants was impressive! When usually, for the trotting meetings, 800 entry tickets are printed and were soon sold out, finally the public numbered over 2000. An attendance never seen in Ploiesti and the races had to be postponed ten minutes to give all the chance to enter the venue!
The first race was the Shagya-race over 950 m, with five entries and was won in 1’23”6/100 by the 14-years-old Odin (by El Iman out of a Mersuch-daughter ), owned and trained by Ion Maldea, closely followed by Thea of Kohailan-lines belonging to Shagya Romania and trained, like the other three entries, by Mircea Neagy.
The second race was for the young purebred Arabians of three and vour years old and had six entries, all Heritage horses bred in Romania, four of them belonging to Romanian Government, i.e. the National Stud Mangalia. It was Hariz, ridden by Hamil Nurhay who crossed the finish-line as winner in 1’08”47/100 after 950 m. Hariz is a 3 years-old by Hilal Al Haneef out of Yooma, belonging to Hristo Hristov and trained by Levent Nezirov. Second Zuhara and third Zafira, both Mangalia Heritage horses, landed at three and four lengths respectively. At Mangalia Stud, I had the pleasure to attend the race of the young horses for the selection program and Zuhara (Ibafa / Irma) showed her superiority again over her stable mates.

Pony Race as great Attraction

Next followed a race sponsored by the Romanian Jockey Club for Thoroughbreds also over 950 m, which was won in 0’55”37/100, i.e. over 13 seconds (approx. 20%) faster than the young Arabians!
Another trotting race followed with eight starters belonging to six different owners and won by a 4 years old bred in Romania out of two USA-born trotters.
The next race was long awaited by the crowd in particular by Lara Sawaya as the HH Sh Mansoor started last year with the Sh Lateefa bint Mansoor International Pony Race series! Six Shetland pony’s (of rather varied size) were entered to run over 250m.
To the surprise of all the smallest pony was taking the lead at an impressive turn-over frequency, and the crowd got over the moon, but unfortunately the Pony remembered the course used the two days before for the training, and turned away from the straight line and the eight-year-old rider came to a fall, which offended her very much!
The final winner was Calypso and his rider was invited by Lara to take part in the finals of the series in November in Abu Dhabi. The unfortunate rider who fell off was also invited to attend the finals in Abu Dhabi as an observer! According to her father (and trainer) the pony is much faster when ridden by her younger brother (5-years-old), who is, in fact, the owner of it. A good omen for future pony-races!
There was no real prize-money for the pony-race, in accordance with the Sh Mansoor Festival spirit, but there was an equal amount of travel-incentives for all starters!
Another Thoroughbred race followed over 1800 m with six entries and the winner was 12 hundreds of a second faster than two other steeds split by only two hundreds of a second – an exciting race!

Trotting is very Popular

The “biggest” race – not in terms of prize-money, because Romania is not used to huge prize-money, but in terms of number of entries – followed now and was another trotting race: 12 entries for advanced trotters. The handicaps for these horses are expressed in differences of distance to be covered making them start from the starting zone, bending behind various poles, ranging the distance between 1970 to 2050m. This procedure led to several “false starts” The winner was driven over 1990 m in 2’49”95/100. These 12 horses almost all had a different owner, showing the popularity of trotting races in Romania!
Finally and “last but not least” came the “Wathba Stallions Cup, sponsored by the HH Sh Mansoor Al Nahyan Global Flat Racing Festival with a prize-money of approximately five times the purse of the TB-races (the highest prized among the other races). Seven entries for this ARAC-race, among them four had travelled from Bulgaria and were of French bloodlines, three born in France (by Dormane, by Nizam and by Nayef al Khalidiah) and one born in Bulgaria by No Risk Al Maury. The three Romanian entries were all of Heritage bloodlines, among them one horse bred in Poland (by Pedagog).
Unfortunately the National Stud of Mangalia did not have any older horses in training, probably as they had their “young horses test“ the next days and all attention and training was given to the preparation of the three-year olds during May and June.

French Lines dominating the Race

Without surprise the 4 horses of french lineage immediately took the lead in the race and among the Heritage Arabians, only Demona by Pacific out of Desdemona (bred, owned and trained by Guillaume Fillet) could more or less pretend racing among the specialized race-horses. Raja unfortunately deviated back to the stables and quitted the track. The very beautiful Equario (by Pedagog) could not challenge the French bloodlines showing once again the need of Heritage-only races to maintain the racing-option for the old, classical Arabian horse.
The fastest among the four Bulgarian horses and winner was Ameer Al Arab (FR) by Nizam out of Al Basheq, finishing the 1800 m-strip in 1’58”98/100 ridden by Valentin Atanasov who was invited to take part in the finals of the HH Sh Fatima World Championship for Apprentices in Abu Dhabi in November. Ameer Al Arab was easily beating (by 1”08/100) his runner-up Nordika (BG) by No Risk Al Maury. Third came Diamond du Pouy (FR) by Dormane out of Kamana, followed by Eau de Muguet (FR)

World Arabian Horse Racing Forum 2019 in Romania

During the prize-giving of the “Wathba Stallions Cup”, Lara Sawaya, realizing the unequal game between the French-bloodlines and the Heritage Arabians, and the need to help Romania to educate more jockeys, also invited the Romanian rider Octavian Dsandu to attend the finals in Abu Dhabi in November!
The “Wathba Stallions Cup” on 1st of July was thus, in the presence of H.E. the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Romania, the Vice-Major of the dynamic city of Ploiesti, the President of the Romanian Jockey Club and many more officials, the first international gallop event for Purebred Arabian horses in the history of racing in Romania. At the occasion of this special event was also celebrated a double Centenary: 100 years since the foundation of Romania and 100 years since the birth of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of United Arab Emirates.
Also, and even more exciting, next year, the yearly World Arabian Horse Racing Forum is planned to take place in Bucharest, with as final highlight, another race-day in Ploiesti! Congratulations and thanks to Lara Sawaya and the HH SH Mansour Festival for their support and to Guillaume Fillet for all the efforts to bring this tremendous project of reintroducing racing in Romania to a good end! For sure, the Forum (normally from 8th to 14th of July 2019) will be another major success!
Nelly Philippot