Al Uqda: a journey of discovery: the new 5***** training facility in Qatar
The Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club (QREC), which is under the aegis of the Ministry of Sports and Culture, has been given permission to develop the Al Uqda complex as a training facility. A new racecourse could also see the light of day should the tests for this prove conclusive. Here Patricia de Mieulle-Musial, the head honcho of international affairs, answers our questions.
The French Purebred Arabian. – Explain the origins of this project?
Patricia de Mieulle-Musial. - The use of complex is in line with the demands of owners and local trainers. In Qatar, we don’t have enough stable capacity to accommodate all the horses. The only site suitable for this, apart from the private training centres of Al Shahania, Umm Qarn and Al Jeryan Stud, is Al Rayyan Park [editor’s note: this facility is also used racecourse]. However, its city location at Doha excludes the possibility of expansion. So we are very limited in terms of the number of stabling accommodation for horses. Furthermore, we’re of the opinion that the training facilities are overused.
How did Al Uqda come into being?
Initially, it was more of an equestrian centre for endurance horses, which offered the possibility of having a riding school. Things were evolving on the racing side, and we realised that the waiting period, and the demands relative to having racehorses, were proving considerable. That explains why QREC took over the facility with a view to transforming it into a training centre. It has been ready for several years and that the Qatar racing fraternity can now avail itself to a ready-made facility.
Where is it located?
It’s a 45km trip from Doha, on the North road, and is next to Al Khor. It's somewhat middle of the desert location gives it the space to eventually expand. Al Rayyan Park lacks this capacity. Furthermore, a superbly purpose built stadium designed with the 2022 World Cup in mind, and the city of Al Khor, are nearby.
What are the facilities on offer?
Each is equipped with an all-weather and grass tracks. There are three units and the nine barns on each site can individually accommodate 15 horses. This equates to 135 horses per unit. There is also another purpose built facility which was designed to be used as riding school, and show jumping competitions. As things stand, they are being kept for their original use. We don’t know whether they will be used or not for racehorse accommodation. Each unit boasts an equine swimming pool, a horse walker and paddocks... Lastly, each site provides living quarters for the grooms and a veterinary clinic.
Outline the profile of those that have requested boxes?
As things stand, requests have been made by trainers currently licensed in Qatar. Some have had to make do with only one or two boxes until now. Others have had no stabling facilities at all. Therefore, they will be in a position to increase the size of their strings.
Would you be amenable to the idea of attracting foreign trainers?
Yes, of course! This could be a great opportunity, although we are waiting for licence applications to close first before considering this possibility. We’re seeking to prioritise local trainers by giving them opportunities, and there is a cost element to this. Relative to the number of licence applications submitted, we may perhaps open the door to foreign trainers, even if the rules of Qatari racing can prove complicated for them. We will see if it’s possible to accommodate everyone, and if it works. For the meantime the training facilities on offer are worthy of a five star rating.
There is talk, as happened with Al Rayyan Park, of turning the facility into a racecourse?
We plan to carry out tests there during the end of November-early December period. At present, some of the structures that make up a racecourse are missing: and I'm thinking stands, winning post, photo finish equipment, and so forth. It’s under review. There would be two meetings on the sand and two on turf. If these tests prove conclusive, a racing programme for Al Uqda will be established in the 2021-2022 season. This would provide Al Rayyan Park with some breathing space. Indeed, the latter facility is over-used as the number of races held there mount up, and bearing in mind its use as a training centre. The track is deteriorating very quickly.
Are there any plans to sell horses there at public auction?
Yes, there are plans to stage a sale at the beginning of September. We're going to limit the catalogue to 130 horses. English thoroughbreds and PA horses will go through the ring, and there may also be space for the sale of breeding stock.
So Al Uqda is an important step in the QREC development process?
Above all, it shows a willingness to progress and invest. It's very positive that the racing scene has been able to benefit from having this facility.
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