First Racing, First Wathba Stallions Cup in Ploiesti, Romania

The first international gallop event for Pure Bred Arabian horses in the history of racing in Romania

15 July 2018, Romania ~ Incredible success for the first international race-meeting in Romania. After a timid demonstration race of pure Arabians last fall, I convinced Lara Sawaya, director of the HH Sh Mansoor Festival, to support racing in Romania. A Wathba Stallion Cup was planned for this 1st of July in Ploiesti, a brand-new, lovely and efficient race track not far away from Bucharest, which offers regularly trotting meetings but has also a nice turf-track, unfortunately never used till now.

But, before that, Guillaume Fillet (President of ARAC, the Romanian Association of Arabian Race Horses) had a long and tedious path to go. It included convincing the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, the Jockey Club, the authorities of the track, and last but not least, some owners of pure Arabians.

As the National Stud of Mangalia has unfortunately, due to neglect of parentage control during the communist period, many pure Arabians that are not eligible for WAHO-acceptance (and thus not for the Romanian Stud-book) an important number of horses had to be rejected from the project. 
After all the administrative negotiations, set-up of the rules and regulations, updating of the starting-gates, all with the inherent ups and downs, Guillaume could finally stage two prep-races during trotting-meetings in May and June.

The day of the first Wathba Stallions Cup had to be more festive and Guillaume, with his convincing but calm attitude, convinced the association Shagya Romania, the Trotting Federation, the Shetland Pony’s, and last but not least, the Romanian Jockey Club, to each stage one or two races during the same meeting.
 For the Wathba Stallions Cup, there was enough entries from Romania alone to fill the race, but not enough jockeys to ride them all.

So, it was decided to attract some horses from Bulgaria and split the horses in two groups: the young ones (3 and 4 years old) and the older ones in the Wathba Stallions Cup. It is thus by lack of jockeys in Romania that there was two races for Arab horses and that the meeting became international. In the future, it is the aim to work international for the Balkan countries, Hungary having financial possibilities but are lacking race-horses, Bulgaria having race-horses but no ad-hoc racetrack and Romania just missing jockeys.

Attracting and schooling of jockeys is the next priority for Romania. 
Despite the heavy rainfall during the four days preceding the race day, inducing a lot of desperate hesitation about canceling or not cancelling the whole event. In the end it was the director of the track that brought the solution by offering to run some of the gallop races on the trotting track, which was softened by the ample rain.

The meeting started before all visitors had the chance to enter the track and the number of attendants was impressive. As usual for the trotting meetings, 800 entry tickets had been printed and were soon sold out. Finally the public numbered over 2000, an attendance never seen in Ploiesti and the races had to be postponed 10 min to give all the chance to enter the track.

The races

The first race was the Shagya-race over 950m, with 5 entries and was won in 1:23:06 by the 14-year-old ODIN (El IMAN x MERSHUCH), owned and trained by MALDEA Ion, closely followed by THEA of Kohailan-lines belonging to Shagya Romania and trained, like the three other entries, by NEAGY Mircea. The 3 other horses belonged to DUBAIJA Viorel (the “animator” of the association) and someone of his family. 
The second race was for the young pure Arabians of 3 and 4 years old and had 6 entries, all Heritage horses bred in Romania, 4 of them belonging to STATUL ROMAN, which is (I think) the racing section of the National Stud Mangalia. It was HARIZ ridden by NURHAY Hamil that crossed the finish line as winner in 1:08:47 after 950m. HARIZ is a 3-year-old by HILAL AL HANEEF out of YOOMA, belonging to HRISTOV Hristo and trained by NEZIROV LEVENT. Second ZUHARA and third ZAFIRA, both Mangalia Heritage horses landed at 3 and 4 lengths respectively.

I had the pleasure to attend at Mangalia Stud the race of the young horses for the selection program. ZUHARA (IBAFA x IRMA) showed her superiority again over her stable mates. Next followed a race sponsored by the Romanian Jockey Club for Thoroughbreds, also over 950m, which was won by SCARTA (GB) (CAPTAIN GERRARD x SOPHIE’JO) in 0:55:37, i.e. over 13 seconds (approx. 20%) faster than the young Arabians! Four of the starters belong to Statul Roman, connected with another National stud: Cislau.

Another trotting race followed with 8 starters belonging to 6 different owners and won by BORGHA JACKPOT, a 4-year-old bred in Romania out of two USA-born trotters: QUITE EASY (US x AVIANO US), covering the 1600m in 1:18:5.

The next race was long awaited by the crowd, in particular by Lara Sawaya as the HH Sh Mansoor started last year with the Sh Lateefa bint Mansoor International Pony Race series. Six Shetland ponies (of rather varied size) were entered to run over 250m. To the surprise of all, the smallest pony took the lead in impressive fashion, and the crowd got over the moon, but unfortunately remembered the course used before for the training, and turned away from the straight line causing the 8-year-old rider to fall, which offended her very much, The final winner was CALYPSO, owned by CISMARU DANIEL. The rider, GEORGESCU Erica, was invited by Lara to take part in the finals of the series in November in Abu Dhabi. The unfortunate rider of the micro-pony ANDRE, MALDEA Teodora, was also invited to attend the finals in Abu Dhabi as an observer. After her father (and trainer) the pony is much faster under the saddle of her younger brother (5 years old), who is in fact the real owner of ANDRE. A good omen for future pony-races. There was no real prize-money for the pony-race, in accordance with the Sh Mansoor Festival spirit, but there was an equal amount of travel-incentives for all starters.

Followed another Thoroughbred race over 1800m with 6 entries and it was LILLY BILLY (CAMPANOLOGIST x SENTIMENTAL UNION) belonging to owner-trainer NEZIROV LEVENT and ridden by ATANASOV GROZDAN) by 12 hundreds of a second before two other steeds split by only 2 hundreds of a second. An exciting race!

The Biggest, not in terms of prize-money, as Romania is not used to huge prize-money – but in terms of number of entries – followed now and was another trotting race. This 12 entry race was for advanced trotters. The handicaps for these horses are expressed in differences of distance to be covered making them start from the starting zone, bending behind various poles, ranging the distance between 1970 to 2050m. This procedure led to several false starts. The winner finally was VELMIR, a 3y-old (Carlos x Victoria), driven over 1990m in 2:49:95 by MARIN N., his trainer being DOGARU N. and owner MARIN N. He was followed by RENUMIT (Bizar x Rumba), this one a 4-year-old belonging to Sanpetru M. and driven by his trainer Ionescu Cr. The best km-time of this race was by the third horse DETOXICATED, covering the 2030m in 2:50:71, giving him the km-time of 1:24:01. These 12 horses almost all had a different owner, showing the popularity of trotting races in Romania.

Finally and last but not least came the WATHBA STALLIONS CUP, sponsored by the HH Sh Mansoor Al Nahyan Global Flat Racing Festival with a prize money of approximately, 5 times the purse of the TB races (the highest prized among the other races). Seven entries for this ARAC race, among them 4 from Bulgaria and were of French bloodlines, 3 born in France (by Dormane, by Nizam and by Nayef al Khalidiah) and one born in Bulgaria by No Risk Al Maury. The 3 Romanian entries were all of Heritage bloodlines, among them one horse bred in Poland by Pedagog. Unfortunately the National Stud of Mangalia did not have any older horses in training, probably as they had their young horses test the next days and all attention and training was given to the preparation of the 3-year olds during May and June.

Without surprise the 4 horses of French lineage immediately took the lead in the race (Photo AHS) and among the Heritage Arabians, only Demona (Pacific x Desdemona) bred, owned, and trained by Guillaume Fillet) could more or less pretend racing among the specialized race horses. Raja, belonging to Marius Dumitrescu and Sorin Popa, unfortunately deviated back to the stables and quitted the track. The very beautiful Equario (by Pedagog) could not challenge the French bloodlines, showing once again the need of Heritage-only races to maintain the racing-option for the old, classical Arabian horse. The fastest among the four Bulgarian horses and winner was AMEER AL ARAB (FR) (NIZAM x AL BASHEQ), finishing the 1800m-strip in 1:58:98. Belonging to YARDANOV Ivan (BG), trained by REYHAN Ahmed, and ridden by ATANASOV Valentin, who was invited to take part in the finals of the HH Sh Fatima World Championship for Apprentices in Abu Dhabi in November. AMEER AL ARAB was easily beating (by 1:08:100) his runner-up NORDIKA (BG) by No Risk Al Maury belonging to Yunal Mehmed. Third came DIAMAND DU POUY (FR) (Dormane x Kamana), followed by EAU DE MUGUET (FR)

During the prize-giving of the Wathba Stallions Cup, Lara Sawaya, realizing the unequal game between the French-bloodlines and the Heritage Arabians, and the need to help Romania to educate more jockeys, also invited the Romanian rider Octavian DSANDU to attend the finals in Abu Dhabi in November.

The Wathba Stallions Cup on 1st of July was thus, in the presence of H.E. the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Romania, the Vice-Major of the dynamic city of Ploiesti, the President of the Romanian Jockey Club and many more officials, the first international gallop event for Pure Bred Arabian horses in the history of racing in Romania. At the occasion of this special event was also celebrated a double Centenary: 100 years since the birth of Romania and 100 years since the birth of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of United Arab Emirates.

A new historical hallmark was set by the HH Sheikh Mansoor Global Festival, patron of the Wathba Stallions Cup series.

Also, and even more exciting, next year (2019), the yearly World Arabian Horse Racing Forum is planned in Bucharest, with as final highlight, another race-day in Ploiesti.
Congratulations and thanks to Lara Sawaya and the HH SH Mansour Festival for their support and to Guillaume Fillet for all the efforts to bring this tremendous project of reintroducing racing in Romania to a good end! For sure the Forum (normally from 8th to 14th of July 2019) will be another major success!

Text Nelly Philippot-Hermanne
Photos : Roger Lothaire & Daniel Angelescu (Wathba race)
Editor’s Note: We have left this report in it’s original form save in order to give the writer’s flavor of the event.