By Marty McGee The Daily Racing Form
June 10 LOUISVILLE, Kentucky ~ The most hallowed ground in Thoroughbred racing is availing itself for one race to another breed. Churchill Downs has agreed to allow Abu Dhabi, the capital and governmental seat of the United Arab Emirates, to sponsor an Arabian race that will be run here next Saturday, June 18, as one of 12 races on the Stephen Foster program.
The $50,000 President of United Arab Emirates Cup will be run at 1 1/4 miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby, in what is believed to be the first race for other breeds in modern times at Churchill.
The move is not without precedent in Kentucky. Keeneland ran a parimutuel race for Arabians at the 2010 fall meet for the first time in its history, and the race attracted considerable interest, if only for it being a novelty. That race also was sponsored by Abu Dhabi, which is in the process of trying to increase its profile in racing and sponsors a worldwide series of races for Arabians.
Arabians, which are considerably slower than their Thoroughbred counterparts, race regularly at a handful of venues in America, most notably at Delaware Park.
Only 10 horses were nominated to the Churchill race, but one of them is Grilla, who won the Keeneland race for owner-trainer Bill Waldron when completing 1 1/4 miles in 2:15.42 over Polytrack. Grilla paid $9.40 as the second choice at Keeneland.