Saudi Arabia horse racing has a bright future, says departing top trainer
Saudi Arabia horse racing has a bright future, says departing top trainer
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.
Joe Root’s century seals England series win over India, maintains No. 1 ODI ranking
- This was Root’s second unbeaten century in successive innings
- Joe Root became England’s leading one-day international century-maker
LEEDS: Joe Root became England’s leading one-day international century-maker as an innings of exactly 100 not out on his Headingley home ground saw the hosts to an eight-wicket victory over India on Tuesday and a 2-1 series win.
This was Root’s second unbeaten century in successive innings after his 113 not out helped England level the three-match contest with an 86-run win at Lord’s on Saturday.
This latest hundred was also Test skipper Root’s 13th in ODIs, taking him past the England record of 12 he had previously shared with Marcus Trescothick.
Tuesday saw Root and one-day captain Eoin Morgan (88 not out) share an unbroken third-wicket stand of 186 as England, first in the ODI rankings to their opponents’ second, ended India’s run of nine straight bilateral series wins in style.
England, who will be bidding to win the World Cup for the first time when they stage next year’s edition, had said they would treat Tuesday’s match as a dress rehearsal for a winner-takes-all game at the showpiece tournament.
And that made the comprehensive manner of their victory all the more satisfying for Morgan’s men.
It was England’s bowlers who set up this win, with Adil Rashid and David Willey, two of the five Yorkshire cricketers in their XI, taking three wickets apiece.
But, after left-arm quick Willey had kept things tight early on, it was leg-spinner Rashid who did significant damage by taking two wickets in an over.
He bowled India captain and star batsman Virat Kohli (71), as well as dismissing Suresh Raina, on his way to three for 49 in a maximum 10 overs.
Willey, who took three for 40 in nine overs, received excellent new-ball support from Durham quick Mark Wood (one for 30).
Root, who was dropped from the final match of England’s preceding 2-1 Twenty20 series loss, told Sky Sports: “It feels fantastic.
“To come into a big series like this and perform how we have as a side is great.”
Morgan added: “I think we were outstanding. I think the tone was set by the bowlers early on, David Willey and Mark Wood were on the money. From that point there was no let up.”
Meanwhile Kohli accepted his side had been outplayed.
“I thought we were never on the mark as far as runs on the board were concerned, we were 25-30 short, and England were really clinical with the bat and in the field as well,” he said.
After Morgan won the toss, Rohit Sharma, who scored a superb century during India’s eight-wicket win in the series-opener at Trent Bridge, struggled to make two off 18 balls, his innings ending when he flicked Willey to Wood at deep square leg.
Opening partner Shikhar Dhawan made a fluent 44 before was run out by Stokes’s direct hit.
Dinesh Karthik, preferred to KL Rahul for this match, then made 21 before he was bowled between bat and pad by Rashid.
Kohli pressed on, however, completing a 55-ball fifty before Rashid struck twice in six balls as India slumped to 158 for five.
He bowled Kohli with a superb leg-break and had Raina caught low at leg-slip by Root.
James Vince, called up in place of the injured Jason Roy cut the first ball of England’s reply, from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for four.
Vince’s frustrating England career has seen him repeatedly get out on Tuesday he fell for a run-a-ball 27, although it needed a brilliant one-handed take by wicket-keeper Dhoni, from Hardik Pandya’s throw, to run him out.
But by then England were 74 for two inside 10 overs, well above the required run-rate.
Root, stumped off a Yuzvendra Chahal no-ball on 69, went to his century when he pulled Pandya through midwicket for his 10th four in 120 balls as England won with 33 deliveries to spare.
An elated Root celebrated by dropping his bat to the ground — the ‘mic drop’ gesture more associated with rock stars and stand-up comedians than cricketers.