Qatar’s most prestigious race day, HH The Amir Sword Festival, to be held on Saturday 17 February at Al Rayyan Racecourse in Doha, has attracted 152 international entries from 11 different countries among a grand total of 414 horses engaged in its 2024 renewal, which will feature six races and prizemoney of US$6.8 million.
The six international races are headed by HH The Amir Trophy for thoroughbreds and HH The Amir Sword for purebred Arabians. Both are run on turf over 2400m and each carries a purse of US$2.5 million.
HH The Amir Trophy is set to feature top class horses from many of the world’s best racing jurisdictions, with its reigning champion, Russian Emperor, who is trained in Hong by Douglas White, already invited to defend his crown.
His likely opponents include the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf hero, Rebel’s Romance, who hails from the UAE-based stable of Charlie Appleby, plus, representing Britain’s John and Thady Gosden father and son training team, the Group 2 winner Israr, and, from Ireland’s all-powerful Aidan O’Brien yard, another Group 2 victor, Point Lonsdale. Israr and Point Lonsdale met late last year, when they finished second and third in the Bahrain International Trophy.
Last month’s Hong Kong Vase runner-up, Zeffiro, trained by Yasutoshi Ikee, and Yasuo Tomomichi’s Group 2 scorer Satono Glanz are probable runners from Japan, as is the Takeshi Okumaura-trained North Bridge, who has also been successful in Group 2 company, while home hopes may principally rest with Simca Mille, a winner at the highest level in Germany who recently joined top local trainer Alban de Mieulle.
HH The Amir Sword’s field is set to feature a number of France’s best purebred Arabians, such as the Francois Rohaut-trained pair Al Ghadeer and Ch’Ezza along with the Thomas Fourcy stablemates Moshrif and Al Doha. Al Ghadeer was the winner of the Qatar International Stakes 2023 at Goodwood and the Qatar Arabian World Cup in 2023 at ParisLongchamp. He will be trying to become the second horse to win the Doha Triple Crown (Ebraz, owned by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Thani won it in 2015).
The most likely local winner of HH The Amir’s Sword is Abbes, trained by Alban de Mieulle, who won the race last year.
The two main supporting races are, for thoroughbreds, the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup for four-year-olds and up over 1600 metres on turf, and its purebred Arabian equivalent, the Qatar International Cup. Both boast prizemoney of US$500,000.
Already a seasoned traveller, having recorded victories in France (twice), Germany (twice) and Italy, not to mention five more in his home country of Britain, the Archie Watson-trained Brave Emperor is set to venture outside Europe for the first time to head the line-up for the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup.
Other internationals already invited to take him on are the UAE duo of Saeed bin Suroor’s Real World and Marbaan, from the Michael Costa barn, plus the O’Brien-trained Irish challenger Cairo, representing the stable that won this event 12 months ago with Order Of Australia.
A brace of crack French five-year-olds, Charles Gourdain’s Jenkille Hipolyte and the Rohaut-trained Ska de l’Aigle, will be the leading foreign raiders in the Qatar International Cup alongside Djalnor, who will be flying the flag for Oman and is trained there by Hussein Ali Al Senaidi.
The Festival is completed by two more thoroughbred contests. The Dukhan Sprint for three-year-olds and up is run over 1200 metres on turf and has a purse of US$400,000, as does the Al Rayyan Mile, another turf affair, this time over 1600m and restricted to three-year-olds.
The top Dukhan Sprint candidates are likely to be the British visitor and Group 1 winner, Emaraaty Ana, who has recently transferred to the Jamie Osbourne yard, and the dual Group 3 winner, Coeur de Pierre, who is trained by Maurizio Delcher. Charlie Appleby is also considering running his Breeders’ Cup winner Mischief Magic. The Qatari contingent in this one may include Taxiwala, trained by Osama Al-Dafea, who has played a leading role in each of the last three Dukhan Sprints, following back-to-back victories with a gallant second place in 2023.
The Al Rayyan Mile is shaping up to be another cosmopolitan affair. Invitations to take part have already been accepted by connections of the O’Brien-trained Henry Adams, Orne from the Gosden yard responsible for last year’s winner Alzahir, and Ne Me Quitte Pas, who hails from stable of one of France’s best young handlers, Christopher Head. Ne Me Quitte Pas already has experience of the Al Rayyan track and may again come up against the de Mieulle-trained top local colt, Soldier’s Gold, the horse that beat him by a short head over 1400m here in last month’s Al Rayyan Stakes.