May 1, 2014, Doha ~ The curtain came down on a historic 2013-2014 season for Qatar at the Racing and Equestrian Club in Doha when Jassim Ghazali and Harry Bentley consolidated their places as the leading trainer and the leading jockey respectively. Mindza provided a popular win for owner-trainer Hassan Al Matwi in the Club Breeders Trophy and Mojave Desert added another chapter to her fairytale story in the final 2013-14 fixture at New Rayyan racecourse.
More races and greater prize-money made this the busiest and the most valuable season ever staged in Doha and thrilling finishes continued to the end.
Mindza (Djelfor x Pegora) sprinted clear of her rivals in the hands of Marco Monteriso to retain her perfect record after two outings and her three-length success over fellow three-year-olds in the 1400m event for Purebred Arabians suggested hers could be a name to follow next season.
Qatar’s best milers have provided racegoers with a series of exciting finishes this season and their latest clash was no exception as less than three lengths separated the first 11 horses across the line.
For the moment, though, the name to remember is Mojave Desert. After arriving in Qatar last year as a lowly-rated three-year-old maiden filly, she won her fifth race from 12 hard-fought outings in a pulsating climax to the last race on the card, the End Of Season Cup over 1600m on turf.
Mojave Desert with Alberto Sanna riding at maximum power, worried Amico Mio out of the lead in the last 50m, with Right To Dream and the Ghazali trio of Clean Bowled, Oasis Cannes and Mormalorka hard on their heels.
Since landing the valuable Group 2 Qatar International Cup on the middle day of the 23rd HH the Emir International Equestrian Sword Festival in February, Mojave Desert had suffered defeat on her first attempt at 1850m and much more narrowly in two other shorter races, but here she was back to her best for owner Saeed Mubarak Saeed Aljafali Al Naimi and trainer Majid Safedeen.
Connections can look back on having made a wise investment when they paid 11,000gns for Mojave Desertout of Mark Johnston’s stable at the Tattersalls July sales in Newmarket.
The same auction ring has been a happy hunting ground for the Ghazali team, and they took their score in a double record-breaking season to 140 winners with a pair of October 2013 purchases, Missouri Spirit, ridden by Bentley, and Lady Chantilly, partnered by Richard Mullen.
Both jockeys have been regular visitors to Qatar between their UAE winter commitments, and both were seen to best effect on Thursday.
Bentley, scoring his 32nd success in his first championship-winning season, landed the opening 1100m maiden plate for thoroughbreds on Missouri Spirit, who cost 22,000gns when bought out of Kevin Ryan’s stable.
Whereas Bentley has returned to Britain for the new turf season, Mullen has stayed in Dubai and after a winner in Doha on Wednesday, he took his Qatar total to 31 winners in the 1600m handicap for thoroughbreds on Lady Chantilly, a highly-tried filly with one success to her name when she was purchased from Jo Hughes’ yard for 28,000gns.
Although Stephen Ladjadj rode most winners, with a score of 41, Bentley takes the leading jockey title, which is based on prize-money earnings. Bentley, whose achievements included six wins from seven rides on a memorable evening in January, gained his biggest successes on Dubday in the Qatar Derby and Qatar Gold Trophy, which helped him to take the crown even when the colt’s subsequent purchase by Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani’s Al Shaqab Racing operation brought Frankie Dettori into play for his richest win in the Emir’s Trophy.
Dubday was easily the star of the Ghazali stable, which had long taken an iron grip on the trainers’ championship and completely re-wrote the Qatar record books for prize-money and races won. Ghazali’s tally of 140 winners from 1,119 runners earned him a prize-money percentage total of just short of QR 1.7m.
Adding to his previous championship in 2011-12, he passed the record of 99 winners that he set last season and eclipsed the previous best prize-money percentage score of QR 1.07m, achieved by perennial title-holder Alban de Mieulle in 2008-09.
Demonstrating Ghazali’s domination, Julian Smart, his nearest rival for winners and prize-money percentage, notched 49 and 854,500 riyals respectively, while Ibrahim Al Malki’s was the next busiest stable, with 293 runners.
However, Smart had the dual honor of being responsible for the leading horse of the year and training for the champion owner. Smart, whose 49 winners placed him second in the trainers’ championship, and HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, who topped the owners’ list for prize-money (5.99m riyals) and races (37), were responsible for the outstanding Assy, the first local-bred to win the Group 1 HH the Emir’s Sword for Purebred Arabians.
Assy extended his record of eight consecutive wins from nine outings, which included the HH the Emir’s Trophy in 2013, led home a one-two-three for owner and trainer in the Emir’s Sword, taking the 1.8m riyals first prize by a short head from Al Anga, who had been undefeated in her previous five starts, with Rathowan a close third.
Assy’s prize-money haul enabled him to claim the title of leading horse over Dubday, the first thoroughbred to carry the new Al Shaqab Racing silks of grey with gold braid – another good reason to remember the 2013-14 Qatar season with pride.
Photos by Juhaim