This week we’re saddling-up for an equestrian-themed show, with an exclusive interview with Bob Baffert, one of the most successful horse trainers in the world. Plus, we’ll introduce you to a horse whisperer, a man fondly referred to as the ‘Abu Dhabi Cowboy’.
This year’s edition of the Dubai World Cup saw Irish thoroughbred Thunder Snow race to victory and win the ten-million-dollar prize in the final race on Saturday 31st March.
A crowd of almost 60,000 people cheered the horse on as he flew past the winning post with a lead of almost six lengths. Thunder Snow was ridden by Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon, who received the coveted golden whip trophy.
“When I came into the turn, I saw that he changed legs perfectly.” recalls Soumillon, who proudly wore the blue silks of Godolphin - the stables owned by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “He was going smoothly and I had a good feeling - like nobody could catch me at this time.”
Legendary Kentucky-based trainer Bob Baffert was well-represented at Meydan this year, with two of his horses competing in the final race. His American colt, and hot tipped favourite, West Coast was the runner-up, and his horse Mubtaahij took third place.
The U.S trainer spoke to Inspire ahead of the race and said that the Dubai World Cup was now as important within the horseracing industry as ‘American Classics’ like the Triple Crown.
The cost of buying a thoroughbred race horse can easily extend up to $55,000, and on top of that there are farrier costs and veterinary bills to consider.
Baffert says the investment is always worth it, and when sizing up new horses to add to his stock, he looks for a very specific type of personality.
“When you go to greet the horses at the stall, they'll be right in the front.” he says, “They won’t even flinch or anything. They're just like a tough guy. They're just great athletes and things come effortlessly to them - that's one thing the good horses all have in common.”
Baffert believes that his champion horses have something of an understanding when they win a major race for him. And for all their hard work, the horse’s rewards are remarkably more modest than the large purses awarded to their owners.
“They get a lot of love - and extra carrots,” Baffert jokes.
This year’s edition of the Dubai World Cup saw not only traditional horseracing nations like the Middle East, USA and countries in Europe compete, but additional regions that are growing in stature.
“The Asian Racing Federation and the Asian racing countries is a global strength around the world.” Frank Gabriel, executive director of the Dubai Racing Club told Inspire. “The growth of Korea and China will bring new players in the market - and we've got fourteen Japanese runners.”
Fillies fashion & fun:
Since 1996, The Dubai World Cup has been one of the most popular events in the regional social calendar. It’s a place to “see and be seen”, and it’s an event where horse racing and high fashion converge.
Visiting Australian tourists Neil Carpenter and Lisa Wellings saw off stiff competition to win ‘Best Dressed Couple’ in the style stakes.
The event is also a place where corporate hospitality features heavily and deals are done within an industry that’s estimated to be worth more than $300 billion.
Amongst those soaking up the atmosphere was celebrity DJ and singer Dane Bowers. The musician admitted that whilst he always takes an interest in the actual racing at the Dubai World Cup, the venue had much to offer besides.
“What a great event, I love it here.” he says, “It’s more about a social event for me. I like being here and I like seeing who’s here."
Meet the Abu Dhabi Cowboy:
Amru Alabidi is no ordinary rancher.
Two years ago, he gave up working in the oil and gas industry to pursue his passion in the equestrian world as a horse whisperer.
He now dedicates all of his time to rehabilitating horses who have been involved in accidents and those with psychological trauma.
Using eye contact, deliberate hand gestures and quiet talking, Amru establishes himself as the trusted and dominant one in the training ring.
Amru’s regular clients include jockeys, showjumpers, recreational riders and at times racehorse owners, who seek his help in communicating better with their animals.
To date, he’s rehabilitated more than 50 horses – most of them - Arabian and European in origin.
For Amru to establish a bond with new horses can take up to three weeks and training always begins the same way.
“My whip is there, I always use it to build up that pressure to ask for what I want.” he says, “But then, once I've got that stage done, I immediately balance well with the desensitizing exercise - where the horse has to stand still and just be fully accepting of me.”
Equine therapy can often be as beneficial for humans as it is for horses and Amru regularly helps people ride again after an accident. The experienced trainer believes that anything can be achieved if there’s enough trust because horses are naturally curious and social creatures.