A word from AFAC - BEST WISHES FOR 2018
Today, while the IFAHR has around thirty different countries as members, Purebred Arabian horses can compete almost anywhere on the planet.
This is indeed the case in most European countries, from Spain and Italy, to Poland and Russia. In these two latter countries, like in Turkey, in Tunisia, in Qatar, in the Emirates or the Sultanate of Oman, half of the race programme is dedicated to Arabian horses.
The United States and Australia also hold races specifically for Purebred Arabians.
Belgium and Holland, two countries where the industry has suffered, are huge supporters of Arabian horses. They are playing a driving role in determining the future of Arabian racing in the countries of their European neighbours.
Paradoxically, Arabian horses are less well thought of in the countries where racing is healthier, where the Thoroughbreds are the stars of the show, and where their connections do not see the necessity of welcoming newcomers.
In the United Kingdom particularly, Purebred Arabian racehorses have long been kept apart, limited to an amateur sport.
In contrast, in France, Arabian horses have always run on the same racecourses, during the same race meetings, and with the same status, as their Thoroughbred counterparts.
However, the first big race that was held in the Parisian region (organised at Évry racecourse in 1987) was poorly received by the specialist media and without enthusiasm by the Institution, even though it had been self-financed by the breeders and owners of Arabian horses.
At that time, the monopoly of the PMU did not encourage openness or diversification.
The situation has evolved dramatically in the last thirty years: not only have the punters registered their interest in Arabian horse racing, the difference in the total amount of registered bets by the PMU shows no difference between the two breeds.
Furthermore, these races are no longer categorised as a local speciality of the South-West.
The international aspect of the breed is now assured, whilst the reputation of the French breeding attracts foreign enthusiasts. In 1989 and 1991 the Sultanate of Oman sent their emissaries to buy the best French horses.
In 1993, the first public auction of Arabian horses in France, organised by AFAC in Toulouse, played host to His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed as well as representatives of Sheikhs Hamdan and Mohammed Al Maktoum.
From 1994 to 2000, 4 year old Arabian horses raced at Chantilly on the day of the Jockey Club (French Derby), thanks to the generosity and efforts of Sheikh Sultan Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi. In order to secure this race, Sheikh Sultan Al Nahyan sponsored the Thoroughbred races the same day, including the Grand Prix du Jockey Club.
From 2001, the same sponsorship system, with the same conditions, moved to Deauville during the August meeting.
Finally, and most recently, the determination of Qatar permitted Arabian horses to run at Longchamp during Arc weekend. This time, the conditions included sponsorship of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe itself.
This short retrospective of the history of Purebred Arabian racing emphasises an essential principle, which is that hosting Arabian races does not detract from the Thoroughbred racing. Even better, the two programmes complement each other, and both provide a driving force to the industry overall.
Purebred Arabian racing has brought in the biggest sponsors from the Middle-East, thus reinforcing the prize money of the prestigious races. Also, examples of professionals or enthusiasts converted to Thoroughbreds having been introduced to it through Arabian racing are numerous.
In 2017, around three hundred Arabian horses, belonging to eighty-eight different owners, were in training in France. Nineteen racecourses hosted eighty-four races. Remember that in 1989, the national race program only included fifteen races!
AFAC is both happy and proud of the development and the progress that has been obtained. Today, France retains her leadership within the industry, through the quality of the breeding in France as well as the level of racing, and a number of countries have followed in her footsteps by organising showcase Arabian races. We hope that they continue, and we will always be very happy to see their horses competing throughout the world.
The 2018 season looks to be an exciting one. It is with this in mind that the Board of Directors at AFAC wishes all fans of the Arabian horse, and the entire racing industry, a wonderful year.
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