Dubai: Former UAE champion trainer Doug Watson and top jockey Royston Ffrench gave the forthcoming inaugural Chengdu Dubai International Cup raceday a big thumbs-up on Thursday.
Watson, who saddles eight runners at Sunday’s groundbreaking race meeting in China’s Garden City of Chengdu, joined Ffrench in expressing his delight at the prospect of participating in the much-publicised event on Sunday.
A collaborative effort between the Meydan Group and the Chengdu Municipal Government, Chengdu Sports Bureau, the Wenjiang District Government and China Gunagsha Group, the raceday will feature five races including the 2,200m Longines Chengdu Dubai International Cup and the Wenjiang Meydan Classic over a mile.
The races, which are the first to be first held in mainland China, will be conducted under the Emirates Racing Authority’s (ERA) rules of racing.
Speaking to a large gathering of local media at Jinma Racecourse, Watson said: “This is my first visit to the track and although I knew the facilities such as the stables and the racecourse would be good, they have surpassed my expectations.”
Ffrench, who has a ride in each race, including four for the Grandstand Stables of two-time champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, added: “I have been here for a few days and the facilities are fantastic. The horses arrived fit and have been training well, and I am really looking forward to the races on Sunday.”
Watson who is a first-time visitor to China said: “The organisers have done a great job, especially with the stable block, which is on two levels. All the horses seem to have settled in well and are in good health. It was amazing to see them looking out from the top windows, as if they didn’t have a care in the world.”
French added: “I have ridden around the world for 17 years and the facilities here compare very favourably with anything I’ve seen.”
The five turf races will be contested by horses prepared by Dubai Racing Club trainers and ridden by UAE-based jockeys and will also include the Wenjiang Sprint (1200m), Guangsha Handicap (1400m) and Meydan Mile (1600m).
The horses competing have undergone both import and export quarantine procedures and will be shipped back the UAE after Sunday.
Commenting on the significance of the meeting Malih Al Basti, Meydan Group board member and chairman of the Meydan Racing Committee had said earlier: “This is an exciting strategic partnership that we have entered into to assist the Chinese authorities in developing the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
“With this groundbreaking meeting we have opened up channels of cooperation that will continue to grow between the UAE and China.
“Meydan Racecourse, the Dubai World Cup Carnival, and the Dubai World Cup are seen as pinnacles of racing excellence around the world, and we hope to share the strong equine culture that underpins the UAE’s passion for this sport with the people of Chengdu through this event.”
Jinma Racecourse, the only equestrian facility in the west of China, hosted the China Equestrian Festival for the past three years. Racecourse management aims to continue promoting the development of China’s equine industry as a heritage of the Chengdu Dubai International race day.