How Al Shahania has set an unparalleled record

A pedigree is not just a collection of names. It is also a collection of stories. Those of men and of horses. On the 24th February, Gazwan won the  H.H.The Emir’s Sword (Gr. I PA) for the second time. Through his pedigree, last year’s winner of the Qatar Arabian World Cup (Gr. I PA) tells the history of horses in Qatar. However what the current best Arabian horse in the world also offers is a window into the genesis of the stable that dominates the domain: Al Shahania.

Why run horses? To win races. Especially the important ones. The Emir’s Sword is a very important race. All the efforts of the Qatari investors, for decades, have been geared towards this race. The Emir's Sword is a testing race, over 2,400 meters, a distance rarely seen in Purebred Arabian racing. For a Qatari, this is the race of a lifetime. It is therefore not surprising that the winners of this great Doha race are also regularly first passed the post in the biggest turf competitions across the world. Al Shahania was begun in the early 1980's, under the rule of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, when racing was not particularly developed in Qatar. With thirteen wins, they are the winning-most racing operation in the H.H.The Emir’s Sword.

An outstanding era

His Highness’s horses have won the last three runnings of the Emir’s Sword. A few days prior to the 2018 edition, Abdul Rahman Al Mansoor, the director of Al Shahania, spoke to us: "The greatest pride of His Highness, and of the entire team, resides in the fact that his homebreds and his runners are competitive, year after year, in the biggest races in the world. To have this constancy at the top level is extremely difficult. To remain in the elite, a large breeding operation is necessary. All of the specialists are in agreement that Al Shahania’s Purebred Arabians are particularly difficult to beat. And even when they don’t win, they rarely give up. Currently in Purebred Arabian racing and breeding, competition is at a very high level between the big stables and the best breeders. Nonetheless, Al Shahania’s result have been on an incredible upward curve. How do we explain this level of competitiveness, when the best bloodlines are used by all the big studs? There is, of course, the science behind the matings. That is a question of observation and experience. There is also the quality of the training and the breeding. This is directly due to the excellent organisation within Al Shahania, and due to the fact that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani has built up a very strong team around him, with very competent and passionate people."

Djendel, the horse who changed everything

This project was built from three major points: love of the Purebred Arabian, passion for competition, and enthusiasm for racing. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani spoke to the press in 2010: "I bought some horses from Russia. These purchases, along with the stallion Djendel (Manganate), one of the first French-bred horses ever to come to the Middle East, formed the start of my racing and breeding program. When Djendel proved himself to be the best racehorse of his time in Qatar, it was natural that I followed the French breeding lines, and returned to France to buy more French-bred Arabians. Upon acquiring our first French-bred mares, Akie Croix Noire (Tidjani) and Kahila (Djouras Tu), a first-class breeding program was well underway (…) The Emir’s Sword is considered by many in the racing community around the world to be one of the elite races. My first Emir’s Sword win with Djendel was very special as my father was there to see him win by twenty-seven lengths and set a new track record – by seven seconds!"

A record number of victories in the Emir’s Sword

Prior to Gazwan, no horse had ever won the Qatar Arabian World Cup and two editions of the Emir’s Sword. This is an impressive exploit, however this performance can be explained by a certain logic, as Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani elaborated. When looking at the pedigree, one sees that his sire has produced a number of winners of this race, and that his dam herself won the race, as did the damsire…  The founder of Al Shahania commented to the foreign press a few years ago: "Anyone can buy a winner, but our goal is to breed winners. When you can trace the thinking, the logic, and yes, the hunch, that led to that particular breeding decision… when you remember your first sight of the precious foal that would one day carry your colours to glory, well, I can hardly express what great pleasure and pride I feel in those moments." After having tried several different female lines, including Russian and American bloodlines, Al Shahania ultimately decided to focus on the French maternal bloodlines. And Gazwan, the current stable star, is a direct descendant of his first buys in France. In 2016, the operation had fifty-three racing Purebred Arabian broodmares: fourty-seven come from French families. A winner on his only start at 3 in 1989, trained by his breeder Jean-Marc de Watrigant, Djendel ran over four seasons in Qatar. The mating between this son of Manganate with the French-bred Akie Croix Noire produced Arc de Ciel (Djendel). This mare was the first winner of the Emir’s Sword bred by Al Shahania. That was in 2000. Arc de Ciel, the sister to Asraa Min Albarq (second in the Emir’s Sword) and Areej (Qatar Arabian World Cup), then went went on to be an exceptional broodmare. She is the dam of six black-type horses, including Gazwan (Amer)… the circle is complete!

The day that Al Shahania took the first four places in the Emir’s Sword

When asked who are the three most significant horses in Al Shahania’s history, Abdul Rahman Al Mansoor replied without hesitation: "Djendel, Assy and Gazwan." The first mentioned notably won the 1991 edition of the H.H.The Emir’s Sword. Assy (Amer), in 2014, was the first horse bred in Qatar to win this race. This race was all the more remarkable as Al Shahania owned the first three home, with Al Anga (Amer) and Rathowan (Amer), Gazwan’s full brother. Previously in 2012, the horses trained by Julian Smart had struck a huge blow when occupying the first four places! Aziz ASF (Amer) finished in front of Asraa Min Albarq (Amer), followed by Jaafer (Amer) and Mu'Azzaz (Amer). This year, the first two horses passed the post carried the famous « blue and white stars », with Gazwan in front of Ebraz (Amer).

The 2012 edition of H.H. The Emir’s Sword:



2,400m, Gr. I PA, Doha

Year                                                                    Winner                                        

1991                                                                    Djendel

Bred in France by Jean-Marc de Watrigant, by Manganate & Mandore, by Grabiec

1992                                                                    Damascus

Bred in Russia, by Strij & Mexica, by Aswan    

1993                                                                    WF High Voltage

Bred in the United States, by Wiking & Dunasabellina, by Dunajec

2000                                                                    Arc de Ciel

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Djendel & Akie Croix Noire, by Tidjani

2001                                                                    Mebrouk

Bred in France by Jean-Marc de Watrigant, by Manganate & Mandore, by Grabiec

2004                                                                    Kalbarq

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Arawak d'Aroco & Kalila, by Djouras Tu

2008                                                                    Mared Al Sahra

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Massamarie, by Tidjani

2011                                                                    Jaafer ASF

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Madjela, by Manganate

2012                                                                    Aziz ASF

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Aziza d'Aroco, by Dormane

2014                                                                    Assy

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Margouia, by Tidjani

2016                                                                    Gazwan

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Arc de Ciel, by Djendel

2017                                                                    Ebraz

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Massamarie, by Tidjani

2018                                                                    Gazwan

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Arc de Ciel, by Djendel

World Conquest

The Qatar Arabian Arabian World Cup, is the Arc de Triomphe for Purebred Arabians. On a day of exceptional racing, on one of the most selective tracks in the world, the greatest jockeys on the planet and the best Purebreds Arabians in the world meet. Each year this race brings together the elite Arabians from the Gulf, from Europe also, and regularly from North Africa, Turkey, Russia, Poland, the Unites States… No other race brings together such international competition, and the horse that wins the Qatar Arabian Arabian World Cup can be considered the world champion. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani’s horses have won this race four times. This is a record. However, to reinforce the significance of these victories, it is worth remembering that three wins were truly exceptional. In 2011, the first three home were all owned by Al Shahania and trained by Julian Smart: Areej in front of Aziz ASF, followed by Jaafer ASF. The following year, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa’s homebreds, Mkeefa (Amer) and Rathowan, took the first two places. Finally, in 2017, Gazwan won, and Ebraz was in third. No other breeder and owner in the world can claim such a feat in the Qatar Arabian Arabian World Cup.


2.000m, Gr. I PA, Paris

Edition                                                                Winner                                        

2011                                                                    Areej

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Akie Croix Noire, by Tidjani

2012                                                                    Mkeefa

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Nisaee, by Dormane

2014                                                                    Djainka des Forges

Bred in France by Catherine de Robert Labarthe, by Kerbella & Djamour des Forges, by Tidjani

2017                                                                    Gazwan   

Bred by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, by Amer & Arc de Ciel, by Djendel

Taking risks

The Dubai Kahayla Classic, which now runs on the Tapeta at Meydan, is the richest, and the most elite, international race on an artificial surface for Purebred Arabians. For the turf horses, the Europeans and the Qataris, taking part in this race is a huge challenge, and can even pose a risk. In 2010, Jaafer was the first Qatari-bred horse to win the Dubai Kahayla Classic. At Meydan, he pulverised the opposition in the closing stages, and ran the second fastest time in the history of the race. Jaafer now looks to be an extremely promising young stallion. Their 2017 win, the second for Al Shahania, was a gamble that paid off. A late invitee, Reda was coming off a win on the sand at Doha (a very different surface to the Tapeta), after a somewhat discrete 2016 season in Europe. On a dry track, similar to the dirt, the American influence of Reda’s sire lines came to the fore.  Julian Smart, his trainer, had commented: "Better late than never [referring to the invitation]! This was a phenomenal performance, and as I said before the race, I couldn’t be sure how he was going to run today as it was his first time on this type of surface. We ran him on the sand at Doha a few weeks ago, which went well. He was wearing a small pair of blinkers for the first time, and I think that they helped. They way that he won today reminds me of our previous winner in the race, Jaafer, and also of Nez d’Or (Dormane) tripped coming out of the stalls and had to around the entire field."

The Dubai Kahayla Classic 2010: