Horsereporter Chats with Gillian Duffield about her Retirement

Duffiled wins 1st HH Sheikha Fatima International Darley Award for Best Woman Trainer 2011

Duffiled wins 1st HH Sheikha Fatima International Darley Award for Best Woman Trainer 2011

Gillian Duffield, you have had a very successful career training Arabian race horses for almost three decades. Amongst your achievements, you have to your credit hundreds of wins. The world of Arabian Racing will miss you, and we do hope you will share your wisdom. Could you tell us some of the highlights of your career and what you have planned for the future?

HR: How long have you been training Arabians? Did you begin with training operations in the UK?
GD: In 1987 I was asked to train four Arabians for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum in my stables near Newmarket, UK. Gradually the numbers increased as other owners sent horses in.

HR: What took you originally to Dubai? How long did you train there?
GD: After winning the 2001 Newbury Group 1 Dubai International Stakes with Jiyush (Manganate), the Royal Stables’ jockey Richard Hills advised Sheikh Hamdan that Jiyush should go to Dubai to race and I should train him there. For the next eleven years I trained in Dubai in the winters and spent summers training in the UK. At one time I had in training 52 horses in Dubai and 34 in the UK.

HR: How long did you train for HH Sheikh Hamdan and when did you return do the UK to train?
GD: I have trained for Sheikh Hamdan for 28 years. I have trained 198 winners in Dubai and 800 winners in UK, France, Turkey, Germany, Holland, and Ireland, including 28 point to point winners (jump racing). In 2013 I stayed permanently in the UK again.

HR: Your IFAHR records from 2000 show: 673 starts, prize money- €2,802.590,61. You had great success in your career including having won four editions of the Kahala Class Group 1 race. Can you tell us a few of your favorite horses that you trained?
GD: My favorite horses are Kaolino, my first Kahayla Classic winner (2004), and Madjani with his outstanding record of 2 Gr 1 President Cup wins (2005,2006), HH Sheikh Maktoum Challenges (2006, 2008), 3 Kahayla Classics (2005, 2006, 2007), and three times UAE Horse of the Year (2005, 2006, 2007). Also No Risk Al Maury having made history as the first horse to win at Meydan (28 January 2010). Also there was Sophie du Loup winning the Dubai Stakes, and of course Bengali D’Albret, and Normativ, winner of the very first ever race on a Thoroughbred card in the UK. Two special UAE breds were AF Mabrooka and Af Alghabra for Khalid al Nabooda.

HR: You received the first award for Best Woman Trainer of 2011 at the HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak International Darley Awards in Houston, Texas, USA. We are happy to talk about other awards that you care to mention.
GD: I was Champion trainer in the UK 12 times with ARO and 6 times with AHS (UK Arabian Horse Society). Also top Arabian trainer 4 times in the UAE.

HR: Did you experience any problems as a woman trainer in the UAE?
GD: I think because Jaci Wickham had trained so successfully before me I was accepted. As I trained for UAE owners in the UK before training in Dubai it was not an issue being a woman there. I did not stop training in the UK whilst I also trained in Dubai, so returning was not an issue.

HR: In spite of all of the positive support for Arabian racing now ongoing, you have decide to retire. Can you tell us why now?
GD: Running a stables in Newmarket training purebred Arabian horses has become very difficult employing good staff. We have to compete with the biggest trainers of Thoroughbreds who are also requiring staff and obviously their salaries and benefits offered are very difficult to compete with. Also there are now less Arabian race meetings in the UK and it is unnecessary to have a good number of horses in training because when I get the chance to race I have to run four or five in the same race.

HR: What is next for you?
GD: At the moment I am having some time to spend with my family and sorting house and all the other things put on hold for the last decade. I also want to assist at Point to Point races and pony racing, but would never rule out returning to training Arabians again.They have been part if my life for a long time.

HR: And what do you wish to add?
GD: Lastly just to thank HRH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum for giving me the chance to train such quality horses for him and also the many UAE owners such Khalid al Nabooda, Sheikh Hamid bin Butti, and many others including Margreet de Ruiter from Holland. We had so many special times.

Gillian Duffield was honored at Newmarket on 25 September with a cake in Shadwell colors signed by some of her top jockeys and a special painting by Lisa Miller commissioned by Shadwell.Gills horse painting

For More About Ms Duffield’s career see archived article see archived article on Horsereporter:


Photos: Cake in Shadwell colors. Painting features Kaolino, Madjani, No Risk al Maury, Al Hibaab and Bengali d’Albret by Lisa Miller.

(Images supplied by Shadwell).

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