In Sweden, Arabian Racing in the Snow

Photo Credit: Stefan Olsson, Taby Galopp

      February 13, 2012, Sweden ~  Every racing aficionado knows there are months, even years of planning and hard work behind every horse coming under starters orders. A fact often forgotten, when the fraternity turn up on racing days in their Sunday best and high hopes. The Swedish enthusiasts are no different.

Arabian racing in Sweden is mostly undertaken by DIY (Do It Yourself) people, who breed, train and even drive their charges to the races. At the moment all Arabian trainers in Sweden are permit holders. All but two are women and Scandinavia also has a very high percentage of lady jockeys.

With only three permanent courses and two additional one-day meetings, a roundtrip of 800 miles or more to participate in a race is not unheard of. With around 30 races during the main season for the 60+ horses in training, it adds up to a fair amount of driving. It’s costly, too, but the Swedish racing authorities pay a certain traveling compensation to support the better flow of horses between the regions of the country.

The prize money is mainly put up by the courses with allowances from the ATG, which so far holds the betting monopoly. The back-flow from betting is vital to Swedish racing. In recent years Arabian racing has also received most generous support from the Middle East.  The names Qatar, Al Nahyan (Abu Dhabi Wathba) and Ksara are as familiar to the Swedes, as are those of the local sponsors. In addition to the three GrIII (PA) races held in Sweden, Sheikh Mansoor this season has sponsored a new listed race with the highest prize money in the country to be ridden on the dirt at Täby, Stockholm. Furthermore a ladies amateur race, also with a hefty purse, will be ridden on the same day and course under the auspices of Sheikha Fatima.

Thanks to Arabian racing being an integrated part of the overall Swedish Racing, the ever increasing turnover in Arabian racing and sponsorships, the lowliest of everyday races carries a purse of app. 3350 euro. It’s often  paid out to the tune of 50-23-10-7-5-3-2 % to the first seven horses. This helps towards a growth from underneath and a higher amount of starters in the races. With a difference of 60 kg in rating between the the best and the worst, handicaps have proven popular and about a third of the races in Sweden are handicaps for the different categories.

Arabian racing, as all racing in Sweden takes place around the year. When the sunny and sometimes soggy days of the main season are over, there’s a short break over New Years, before the winter season starts. In years of plenty of snow it’s fairly easy, albeit cold, to keep the horses in form, but in years of little snow, the bare, frozen ground is of little help. Winter racing takes place at Täby only. For the southern trainers, it’s a long and nerve piercing haul on the icy roads, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going and it’s seldom an Arabian horse that is scratched from a race. The people are as hardy as their horses.

Two races have been ridden so far this winter season with big fields. The first was won conclusively by the filly, Sweet Dauphine, who took her second victory from three starts and has now been packed in wool until the main season as favorite for the Swedish Derby. The second race went to that hardiest of horses, the now 5-y-o Joshua Brown, who inside his first year of racing has won 6 times out of 19 possible. Both horses bred by IFAHR secretary Mats Genberg & Co.  Joshua Brown was the highest rated Arab in Swedish training at the end of the 2011 season and their home-trained Sweet Dauphine was the highest rated 3-y-o.

Contributed By Nils Rosenkjaer

 

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