Saratoga Horse Racing

Beauty. Speed. Endurance. Heart. Americans, Meet the Arabian Horse.

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The Dubai World Cup is the richest collection of races on Earth, and yesterday's show at the magnificent Meydan Racecourse was no disappointment.  Americans who love horse racing were glued to their TVs from the very first minute of the action.    And, oh--that first race?  NOT the second race on the card, the first:  the EMAAR Dubai Kahayla Classic--went off at approximately 8:30AM Eastern Time here in the U.S.  (Those not used to being up and ready at that hour to watch horse racing, had to set their alarm clocks--but it was well worth the effort.)    If you missed that first post at 8:30AM Saratoga Time, the Dubai Kahayla Classic Sponsored by Emaar, you missed a beautiful sight.  Fourteen majestic horses took flight.    And the American-bred TM Fred Texas won the race, resoundingly...

And the horses...these horses...are of a different color or two, perhaps.  Horses of a different breed--definitely.

The EMAAR Dubai Kahayla Classic isn't a "baby" race, a claimer or any other brand of less-than-challenging action.  This race is a mile-and-an eighth (2000 metres, approximately 10 furlongs).  And this race is worth watching next year, if you missed it yesterday.  You should watch, if for no other reason than the fact that the horses, five years old and up--are Arabians.  (And now that you've missed the 2012 edition of the race---you'll just have to find Arabian racing elsewhere.  See links below.)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Equicurean ARABIAN HORSES RACING Credit Mats Genberg.jpg

Arabian horses are the foundation ancestors of our beloved Thoroughbreds.  Arabians look foreign, almost alien, to those of us who are only familiar with the Thoroughbred conformation; straight profile and buff musculature.  Arabians, whose lines can be traced back 5,000 years, were the three founding sires of the Thoroughbred breed:  the Darley Arabian; Godolphin Arabian and Byerly Turk all hailed from the Arabian peninsula.  All three sires were bred with more sturdily-built English breeds to create that which we now know as the Thoroughbred.

Every Thoroughbred alive, in order to prove that indeed it is a Thoroughbred, must be able to trace its ancestry on both sides (dam and sire/mother and father)--to at least one of the three founding sires.  And those three sires, Arabians all, contributed many remarkable attributes to our Thoroughbreds.  Attributes that have endured four centuries so far.   An esteemed member of Jordanian royalty--herself an accomplished, brilliant horsewoman--describes it far better:

"...the Arab horse is precious for its qualities:  BEAUTY--which has become a bit of a two-edged sword...in fact they are incredibly TOUGH.  Witness the fact that most endurance rides are won by Arabs and part-breds:  the bones while fine are very dense,  and the heart 1/3 larger than other breeds--hence the quicker pulse recovery after exhaustion.  And mentally tough:  they fight illness and handicaps much longer than many other breeds.  PREPOTENT:  Arabs are crossed with almost all other breeds as they ADD qualities without detracting in any way.  INTELLIGENT:  cutting people like to use them as they THINK for you and reduce the effort needed by cowboys and gauchos when herding other creatures.  BRAVE--(I am not pro-bullfighting,  but rejoneadores cross the Spanish horses with Arab to add courage facing the bull in the arena.)   And FRIENDLY:  they will follow a stranger across a field long after the hope of treats has gone just because they are intelligent and,  unless--God forbid--horribly abused like many modern "show" Arabs--they like people!   

There is a saying attributed to the Prophet (Mohammed) (PBUH), that, '...if your neighbour owns a horse and you do not, open a window in the wall to allow the Blessings to reach you from next door.'    There is a legend that they were created beautiful to attract people's attention--so that they could then perform their various missions of helping humans and filtering out negativity...but then people began to want to own and possess them for their own egos--'and greed spoils everything...'"

                                      -- Her Royal Highness Princess Alia Bint Al Hussein of Jordan

[In her capacity as Director of the Royal Stables of Jordan for the Preservation of the Arabian Horse, Princess Alia initiated the festival of the "Arabian Horse at Home" in 1988 (now a yearly event).  She also organized the Middle East Championships for Purebred Horses.]

The face of the Arabian horse is distinguished by its concave ("dished") profile, prominent eye, large nostrils and diminutive ("teacup") muzzle. (There is a range in this description, of course--racing Arabians run the gamut from extremely-dished, prominent and teacup to barely-so.)   The extreme of this look makes the breed appear like an alien space traveler--if you're used to Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.  

But closer inspection reveals this look to be wildly appealing to both the eye and the heart.   This is the look of centuries of pure, meticulous breeding--all the bad has been bred out of them, all the good--in.   Lovers of Arabians are almost obsessively enamoured of the breed--and that love springs from looking into that eye, and embracing that singularly unique beauty.

Delicate in appearance yet durable of the leg and glute, the Arabian is a breed worth investigating--and watching.  To see desert deities gliding over their native ground, and in Europe, the US and Asia--check out the links, below.   If your curiosity is whetted thus, you can find Arabian racing in many pockets of the United States, and everywhere on Earth.

I invite you to come on this journey with me--I've discovered the Arabian horse, and hope that you will, too.  (I have not abandoned my adoration of the Thoroughbred--a human heart can love more than one, and love equally.)  Come with me on this magic carpet ride:  experience the sense of timelessness and grace that inspired the first Bedouins who observed Arabian horses to utter, "The wind of Heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears."

LINKS:

*  Arabian Jockey Club: http://www.arabianracing.org

*  IFAHR  (International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities):  http://www.IFAHR.org

*  HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival:  http://www.sheikhmansoorfestival.com

Photo credit:

Many thanks to Mats Genberg, IFAHR.



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M.E. Altieri

THE ALPHA MARE, commonly known as M.E. Altieri, is a writer/editor/activist who lives and breathes the art and sport of horse racing—both Arabian and Thoroughbred.
At the tender age of six months, her Grandmother plopped her on the back of a pony. (See photo.) Three years later, Mare first rode a horse—an American Quarter Horse—on her cousin's farm in Stephentown, New York. That same year her Mother and Grandma took her to Green Mountain Park, a now- (sadly) defunct Thoroughbred track in Pownal, Vermont. Next stop, Saratoga Race Course. The seed was planted, and a passion, born.
While she does have other interests (Medieval languages and theology, cats, tigers, etc.) none hold a candle to her passion for horses. She finds that horses are far-more intelligent, compassionate and kind than 99% of the people she meets. Mare's career is fascinating, if nothing else: in 2011, she served as Editor of a beautiful history book, The Purebred Arabian Horses of Iraq: Myths and Realities by Dr. Mohammad bin 'Abdul-'Aziz Al Nujaifi. She's contributed to several international horse racing publications, including Al Badia, Arabian Finish Line, Desert Mirage and Galopp Magasinet.
She's the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of f!lly Magazine-- the magazine by, for and about women in horse racing. f!lly will debut in 2013. Both Thoroughbred and Arabian racing--and women, f!llies and mare from all around the world--will be featured in the full-color, beautiful, historic publication. Magazines are the first of the media M.E. wishes to tackle: she's also writing a screenplay, and seeks the perfect venue and producer for her horse racing radio show. She's got the voice; God knows, she has opinions--she feels led to put them together and broadcast to the 51% of the racing fan base that's too-often been overlooked. (Hint: 51%...could it be, women?)
An Alumna of Mount Holyoke College, Mare hopes to use these media, including her blog here at Saratoga.com, to encourage women and girls to find their vocations in horse racing and to help make the world a more loving and nurturing place for all equines. When asked to identify her Mentor, the woman who encouraged her to follow her bliss, Mare names the great Penny Chenery. Through these various media projects, Mare hopes to do for other females what Ms. Chenery did for her--open doors, encourage and bless.


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Thoroughbred Racing in Saratoga

The Thoroughbred is a distinct, created breed of horse. Saratoga Springs, New York is a unique, pristine city in Upstate New York.

Put the two together, Thoroughbreds and Saratoga, and you have America's most prestigious, lushly beautiful and important racing meet. For six weeks every summer, the world's best horses, jockeys and trainers come together to compete for trophies, cash and fame.

In this blog, we'll discover All Things Thoroughbred and the lovely international community of horsepeople, both professionals and fans, alike who set up camp in this city. Some come for six weeks, only. Others are here from April through November every year, when the Oklahoma's open. Yet others trek to town to race their mighty steeds—then fall in love with the place; buy a home and move here.

The Saratoga racing family of humans and horses is a year-round endeavour. You think that all the horses all go elsewhere after Labor Day? Then this blog is for you, too.

(Is the reference, "the Oklahoma" lost on you? Stay tuned, you'll feel like a pro in no time.)

Welcome to the only experience on Earth that can boast of such otherworldly beauty and heart-stopping thrills, all in the same breath: Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.