The connection between the Middle East and international horse racing has been steadily increasing over the years, with the region now hosting some of the world’s most prestigious races. This looks to carry on for generations to come as investment in the sport has grown exponentially. The biggest races on the calendar include the Dubai World Cup and the Saudi Cup which are very popular for bettors at Arabwinners.com, We see some of the biggest international stars from across the globe travel to the region for these annual events but who are some of the best horses to have come out of the Middle East?
There have been few more successful Middle Eastern horses in history than Al Mourtajez. The runner was trained by Thomas Fourcy throughout his career and was owned by Al Shaqab Racing. He made his first landmark run back in 2014, as he landed in the G1 Doha Cup at Deauville. However, in 2015, he could continue that progression on track by claiming victories in the G1 HH The Emir’s Sword, G1 Doha Cup, and the G1 Qatar Arabian World Cup.
A second success in the latter would follow in 2016, while he also added notable victories in the G1 Qatar Prix Dragon, G1 Qatar International Stakes, and the G1 Coupe d’Europe des Chevaux Arabes. In total, he won eight Group 1s in total across three different countries. However, his achievement to win two Arabian World Cups makes him one of the most dominant horses in the history of the race.
Thunder Snow was one of the most dominant horses that have ever been trained by Saeed bin Suroor. In his two-year-old season, the colt by Eastern Joy won on his first start at Leicester. Before becoming a more significant role in the Middle East throughout 2017, he won his first graded race, the Criterium Stakes. This quickly led to success, as he won the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas. Further success in the UAE Derby would then pave the way for a possible bid to the Kentucky Derby.
His success in the Middle East, however, did not translate to the United States, as he was pulled up after only a furlong in the first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown. However, he would go on to have more success in Europe, winning the Prix Jean Prat. In 2018, he delivered further eye-catching performances in the Middle East, including back-to-back triumphs in the G1 Dubai World Cup in 2018 and 2019. That remains a notable record, as no other horse has won the prestigious race twice.
Discreet Cat was another prominent winner for Saeed bin Suroor on track. The stallion was sired by Pretty Discreet, and was a dominant winner both in the Middle East and the United States throughout his career. His 2006 season remains his most dominant period on the track, as he landed victories in both the Areej Trophy and G2 UAE Derby. Following dominant wins in the UAE, he was shipped to compete with some of the best horses in the world on the dirt in the United States. He was a strong winner on debut, before later claiming victories in the G2 Jerome Breeders’ Handicap and Grade 1 success in the form of the Cigar Mile Handicap.
However, that would be the height of his prowess, as he would struggle to land another Grade 1 victory. He was a distant seventh in the G1 Dubai World Cup, before taking solid third-place finishes in both the G1 Vosburgh Stakes and then the inaugural G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth Park. But, his performances abroad did highlight that UAE-trained horses could target the big U.S. races on the calendar and perform well in high-quality fields.
An Exciting Period In UAE Racing
The popularity of horse racing in the Middle East looks set to continue for years to come. It is expected to be another busy period in the sport over the opening months of 2023, with both the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup likely to attract high-quality runners from all four corners of the globe. However, Middle Eastern-trained runners will also likely travel to compete in further illustrious races as the season progresses, as the success of previous runners does highlight that there is an opportunity to pick up sizable shares of the prize fund.