Travel is synonymous with the word discovery and it also applies to horse racing. My role as a racing journalist has given me the opportunity of being able to acquaint myself
with a number of racetracks, and enabled me to savour some of the world’s great races. I’ve also attended a number of H.H. The Amir Sword Festivals. On each of my Qatari visits, I’ve been able to acquaint myself, little by little, with the unique nature of the local racing scene. Granted the global tendency towards convergence, one must also praise the efforts of those intent on retaining their own identity, which includes the preservation of their own way of life and language. Horse racing has been ingrained in local culture over several decades. Furthermore, there is no question of simply cutting and pasting the racing models prevalent in Europe and the US. For the people of the Emirate have been responsible for the ‘Orientalism’ of racing. Doha racecourse is a lot different to what we are used to in Europe. It’s not huge and, from the outset of daybreak, an impressive number of horses can be seen on the training tracks. On the very big occasions, the ambiance is an ‘electric’ one. It could also be described as impressive. Despite this, and a lack of maturity was a big factor, several European runners on the Saturday H.H. The Amir Sword Festival card lost their races in the preliminaries. They had to contend with a grandstand packed to the rafters, and by an excitable crowd whose appetite is also whetted by the invariable duels involving young riders in the private horse races which take place between the eight events on the card. At around 4.30 pm, the tension levels rose a notch, and coincided with the running of the feature race, the H.H. The Amir Sword (Gr1 PA). The presence of the Emir, complete with his impressive security set-up, was a contributory factor. Above all, however, and you can almost feel it, is the immense pressure heaped upon the shoulders of the ten runners. Consequently, the behaviour of the packed crowd also changed as a result. Everyone is weighing up the extent of their chances, given that they are facing Ebraz (Amer) in this big stamina test for PA horses. In the event of victory, he will enter the annals of history for two reasons: as no PA horse had ever won the H.H. The Amir Sword three times, or completed the PA Triple Crown sweep. The latter was considered a near impossible feat in theory. During the running of the race, I found myself rather surprisingly tapping my feet, and willing on a horse who isn’t mine. Furthermore, the horse delivered. The whole Al Shahania team let their feelings rip. Was it through happiness? Through relief? Or a combination of both? I simply don’t know. In both instances, the intensity of their emotional outpourings was incredible. It was certainly a reflection of the racing achievement, and the thousands of working hours which it represents. For those racing aficionados and lovers of PA racing should make a point of attending the H.H. The Amir Sword Festival at least once!
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