“Just thought I’d drop you a line to say how proud we are in Australia of Maureen’s well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award at the Darley Awards night recently. Maureen has worked tirelessly to establish Arabian Racing in Australia for over 20 years. Lobbying governments and the Thoroughbred industry to recognize our right to race is ongoing and she never gives up. Organizing and facilitating our Racehorse Registry, seminars and race days are only a small part of the roles she plays in keeping the momentum going. Having worked alongside her for many years I know first hand the depth of her commitment. It is absolutely wonderful that Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak has seen fit to create such an award and we at NARA are honored and deeply grateful that Maureen has received the inaugural award. I couldn’t think of a more worthy recipient.” Cheers, Virginia Dodson.
Maureen Milburn, Director of the Australian National Arabian Racehorse Association (NARA) received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her decades-long work to re-establish Arabian horse racing in Australia.
Milburn learned her passion for racing from her father.
“My father was a racing fanatic and I grew up knowing all the trainers and horses. When I got married, my husband had the same passion for racing and so it was just a natural progression to keep following the gallopers.“
She acquired her first Arabian 35 years ago. “He was a beautiful part bred Arabian and went on to be a supreme champion halter and saddle horse. He was definitely the start of my passion for Arabians. We had this horse for 32 years and he ruled over every horse including the stallions and colts.”
What was the impetus for Milburn’s 20 year battle to re-establish Arabian racing in Australia?
“As far back as the 1980‘s, different groups have been struggling to establish Arabian Racing in Australia. Unfortunately they were all doomed to fail because of the state laws governing horse racing. After reading a magazine article about Arabian racing in the United States, I decided that we also had the right to race our Arabians, so I started investigating what we needed to do this right.”
“When I first started on this path I had no idea of some of the seemingly insurmountable hurdles in front of us. Although Arabians were the first racehorses in Australia, when the English Thoroughbreds started arriving on our shores, the Arabian lost its identity. They were referred to as Purebred Thoroughbreds and then just as Thoroughbreds.”
“Over the years, successive governments in each state have given the Thoroughbred industry almost unlimited power which means that they have the full and total control over horse racing, the race tracks, the trainers, jockeys etc. As Australia does not have privately owned racetracks, this means that we must be accepted by the Thoroughbred industry or we cannot race.”
According to Wikipedia, racing is the third most attended spectator sport in Australia, behind Australian rules football and rugby league. On an international scale, Australia has more racecourses than any other nation, and is second to the United States in the number of horses starting in races each year. Australia is third after the U.S. and Japan for the amount of prize money that is distributed annually. Racing in Australia is synonymous with the country’s history, and there are a huge number of tracks, both large and small. The Melbourne Cup at the end of October is almost a National holiday.
The Australian Thoroughbred Industry is the 3rd largest employer group in the country.
Thoroughbred stats for the racing year 1st August 2010 – 31st July 2011:
2641 race meetings run with 18,888 individual races and 190,258 starters
The total prize money: A$428,339,939 (1 USD= .968 AUD)
There were 12,971 registrations and a total wagering of A$14,387,790,000
Registered Purebred Arabians:
Australia has a total of 55,043 registered Purebred Arabians and 72,615 derivative Arabians with a total registry of 127,658 Arabians.
Under the steady onslaught of Milburn’s group, in 2005 the Australian Racing Board amended the ruling to allow personnel licensed by the Thoroughbred industry to participate in Arabian racing. Even with the ruling, some states have not complied.
Arabians now have raced at Caulfield and Moonee Valley in Victoria and are now allowed to race at Mornington and Sandown. With the new races there is renewed interest and the group is receiving inquiries from other tracks in the country. In order to grow and thrive, the Arabian races will need more private and corporate participation.
The first Arabian races are being sponsored by the UAE. For the second year, Shadwell has run a race at the Victoria, Caulfield racecourse. In January of 2012, the Moonee Valley racecourse and 20,000 race goers watched the running of the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies IFAHR Cup, and the H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup, both televised nationally on Australia’s racing channels.
“We have also been given three Al Wathba Cup races,” said Milburn. “We have other races planned for Victoria and are awaiting the go-ahead to commence racing in New South Wales and Queensland.”
“The quest to have Arabian Racing accepted in Australia has taken not only me, but my partner in crime, Virginia Dodson, who is also a NARA director, on a long and difficult road,” she continued. “Along the way we have met some amazing people, made some wonderful friends, and been rewarded and encouraged by the support we have received. Australia is fortunate to have some very unique bloodlines which we know the rest of the world is going to find very interesting.”
Lara Sawaya, Director of the HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival and Head of the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR) Ladies Racing, is a strong ally in the fight.
”The fact that Maureen Milburn was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the H.H. Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Darley Awards ceremony in Houston, USA in March 2012, is testimony to the tireless efforts she has exerted in promoting Arabian racing in Australia. In the face of numerous hurdles, Maureen has almost single-handedly fought for the return of Arabian flat racing in Australia. Her contribution to Arabian racing is significant and it was almost a unanimous decision to decorate her with the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, as the H.H. Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Darley Awards were initiated by the HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival to specifically honor women in Arabian racing.”
“We hope Maureen’s efforts, which saw the return of Arabian horse racing to Australia when the first Arabian horse race in more than a decade was at Caulfield in November 2012, will boost the sport Down Under. The Festival of HH Sheikh Mansoor have followed up by staging the first ever H.H. Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship (IFAHR)race and the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup in Melbourne in January this year. We hope the future of Arabian racing in Australia gets bigger and better.”