Saudi Arabia horse racing has a bright future, says departing top trainer

Nicholas Bachalard has spent eight years in Saudi Arabia, but he is moving to Dubai. (Liesl King)
Updated 30 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia horse racing has a bright future, says departing top trainer

DUBAI: The Dubai World Cup meeting on Saturday may well be the biggest stage in international racing, but it also acts as a leg-up for those not yet in the limelight.
Nicholas Bachalard knows the opportunities that the richest night in racing at $30 million (SR 112.5 million) presents all too well, and is set to be part of the action at Meydan Racecourse by proxy.
Thirteen years ago the smooth-talking 47-year-old Frenchman was working as a key lieutenant for fellow French emigre Christophe Clement at Payson Park in Florida.
Clement came to Dubai and saddled outsider Dynever to finish second to American raider Roses, in May, in the Dubai World Cup, at Nad Al-Sheba for King Abdullah. When the Saudi royal family were looking for a trainer in Riyadh several years later, they were so impressed by Clement’s methods and performance, that they came calling, and settled for one of the key cogs in the wheel.
“They contacted me and asked me whether I was interested in coming to Saudi Arabia,” Bachalard told Arab News at morning trackwork at Meydan. “I was a bit reluctant at the beginning — I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I spoke to a few friends there, and they helped me make up my mind, and I have now been there for eight years.”
There have been significant highs. Bachalard has won more than 270 races in Saudi Arabia and saddled three-time US Grade One winner Ron The Greek to win The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup (King’s Cup), in 2015.
There have also been some lows. For a former American star with a heart of a lion, it was disappointing that Ron The Greek, trailed in 12th in the World Cup in 2014.
From one opportunity has come another. Last year Bachalard came to Meydan on a Dubai Carnival raid, with the Saudi-owned Nashmiah. They went home with the UAE 1,000 Guineas.
When Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of Dubai was searching for a replacement at Jebel Ali Stables for Gopi Selvaratnam, who replaced his long-serving brother Dhruba, Bachalard was once again on the list. He was appointed head trainer at Jebel Ali Stables and Racecourse in February. Alongside the 50-60 horses that Bachalard will inherit over here, as the dust settles on Saturday’s action will be American import Economic Model, who will be a key player in the Godolphin Mile under Joel Rosario. Economic Model won a Group 3 race for American trainer Chad Brown, who continued to train the horse until after the race in Florida in February, after which Bachalard stepped in and bought him for his new patron.
“We bought him because we thought he would be a good fit for the Godolphin Mile,” Bachalard said proudly. “Mostly we bought him for next year. He has tactical speed. You need tactical speed here. The horse was a lightly-raced four-year-old and should improve. Once he runs here, he will stay here and get acclimatized to the weather. From there we will see.”
Godolphin have showed with African Story that a win in the Godolphin Mile can set a horse up for subsequent success in the World Cup. Were Economic Model to win the $1 million opener to Saturday’s nine-race card, the question inevitably turns to whether Bachalard might consider the new record-breaking horse race slated for next year in Riyadh.
Last month the General Sports Authority announced that the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship will carry a purse of $17 million. There was scant detail, but Bachalard believes the time is ripe in Saudi Arabia and has taken a look at the international program and believes there is little room for maneuver.
“They want to improve and promote Saudi racing, that is why they are going to have the Abdulaziz race,” he said. “Hopefully, it will get off the ground next year in February, so it does not clash with the World Cup, but they have a lot of organization to do before then. The track in Saudi Arabia is one of the nicest tracks in the world. The grounds, the way it is kept, any international visitor will have a great experience. The track is amazing, and most of the international jockeys who go there rave about the surface. It was well thought-out, and well-built, all of the turns are banked, it is very horse-friendly, with very few injuries. If they have that race, it is sure to be a good stage for it.
“It will probably stay as Saudi racing. There is little desire to have new owners or horses from abroad. Most of the horses that run in Saudi Arabia are born and raised in Saudi Arabia. They may have to bring in a few stallions to improve the breed. As long as they keep getting the support for King Salman and the royal family, it has a bright future.”
It could be a very interesting 12 months.


Goalkeeper gaffe helps Brazil trounce Peru to reach quarterfinals

Updated 36 min 26 sec ago
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Goalkeeper gaffe helps Brazil trounce Peru to reach quarterfinals

  • Peru must now wait to see what happens in the other two groups to find out if they will qualify for the knockout rounds

SAO PAULO: Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese committed a horrendous error as Brazil ensured top spot in their Copa America group on Saturday with a 5-0 victory in Sao Paulo.
Goals from Casemiro, Roberto Firmino, Everton, Dani Alves and Willian ensured the Selecao would finish top of Group A and will play their quarterfinal in Porto Alegre, potentially against out-of-sorts Argentina, their bitter rivals.
“We knew we’d get there sooner or later because we worked very hard,” captain Alves told TV Globo.
“It’s thanks to wins like this that we’re connected with the fans. When we’re all together, we feel the positive energy,” he added, alluding to the jeers that greeted the team in their first two group matches.
With Peru already 1-0 down, it was Gallese’s dreadful error that led to Firmino’s goal and swept the mat from under Peru’s feet, with the game turning into a rout.
Darwin Machis scored a brace as Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 in Belo Horizonte and leapfrogged Peru into second place, securing a quarterfinal at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.
Peru, who finish third on four points, must now wait nervously to see what happens in the other two groups on Sunday and Monday to find out if they will qualify for the knockout rounds as one of the two best third-place finishers.
Never before since the Copa America adopted a 12-team format in 1993 with eight sides going through to the quarterfinals, has a side mustering four points failed to progress.
Hosts Brazil took an early lead in scrappy fashion when Philippe Coutinho’s corner was flicked on at the near post for Marquinhos to head goalwards from inside the six-yard box, with Gallese rooted to his line.
The ball came back off the post, grazed Marquinhos’s shoulder and was then headed over the line by Casemiro on 12 minutes.
If Gallese was partly at fault there for not commanding his area, he was totally to blame for Brazil’s second.
The goalkeeper dallied over a clearance and when he tried to hoof the ball upfield, it cannoned off a jumping Firmino, looped over his head and again came back off the post.
The ball bounced back to Firmino who waltzed around the stranded Gallese and slotted the ball into the empty net on 19 minutes.
Peru had barely been in the game but captain Paolo Guerrero did curl a free-kick over the top.
Yet the match was effectively over as a contest on 32 minutes when Everton cut in off the left flank and fired a snap effort into the bottom corner, with Gallese a touch slow to react and beaten at his near post.
With almost two thirds of the match to go, Peru were relying on a favor from Bolivia to hold onto second place in the group.
Brazil, who were boosted by a visit from the injured and absent Neymar on Friday, did not let up in the second half.
Alves was next in on the scoring act after playing a pair of one-twos with Arthur and Firmino before firing across Gallese on 53 minutes.
Willian sealed the rout in the last minute with a stunning strike from the corner of the 18-yard box.
And there was still time for Gallese to give away and then save a Gabriel Jesus penalty in stoppage time.
In Belo Horizonte, Venezuela were off to a dream start when Machis headed home a cross from Ronald Hernandez in the second minute.
Machis doubled Venezuela’s lead on 58 minutes, converting a pass from Tomas Rincon.
But just after Jhon Chancellor missed the chance to extend Venezuela’s lead when he hit the bar with a header, Leonel Justiniano pulled back a goal for Bolivia from outside the area.
Venezuela, though, were not to be denied and Josef Martinez flick home a header from Yeferson Soltedo’s dinked cross to book their place in the knockout stages.
“We dedicate this to the whole country, which is always keeping an eye on us,” said Martinez.