Arabian Flat Racing Festival, Including First All-Female Rider Stakes, Set for Saturday, March 3 at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Thursday, March 1, 2012) - Sam Houston Race Park will host two prestigious Arabian stakes on Saturday, March 3. The $30,000 Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup and $27,500 HH Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies IFAHR Cup kick off a seven-race series as part of the Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival.

The HH Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies IFAHR Cup is the first Arabian race featuring all female jockeys. Twelve fillies and mares will compete in the seven furlong stakes, which will run as the eight race of the Sam Houston Race Park card. The international roster of accomplished horsewomen include Shatra Al Hajjaj from the United Arab Emirates, Veronika Aske of Norway; Jadey Pietrasiewicz of the Netherlands; Josephine Kelly of Sweden; Catherine Burri of Switzerland; Melanie Plat of France and Sandee Beattie representing the United States. 
Lara Sawaya is the director of both the HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival and Head of IFAHR Ladies RacingHead of IFAHR Ladies Racing, and looks forward to both stakes this Saturday evening.

" Today is the start of the HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival's racing for the year 2012 in the US, which kicks off with two races at Sam Houston Race Park on March 3," said Sawaya. "Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairperson of the General Women's Union, Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation and President of Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood has drawn huge attention to female sports. These races are held for the encouragement by Her Highness of the UAE lady riders in particular and the Gulf lady riders in general to show interest in the sport of our parents and grandparents."

A field of 12 Arabians will run in the seven furlong stakes. Defending champion, Grilla set a new track record in this stakes last year, which was run at the distance of one mile. Bred and owned by Bill Waldron, Grilla is a 6-year-old son of Kong out of the Wiking mare Dixie Darlene. Following his impressive victory at Sam Houston, he ran in three graded stakes at Delaware Park before returning to Waldron's farm in Brooksville, Florida. He will make his 2012 debut on Saturday night under rider Erik McNeil.

"Erik worked him on Sunday and did a fine job," said Waldron of the five furlong tune-up. "While on paper, he hasn't run since last November, I have a mile training track and he has been swimming as well. Hopefully, he can set another track record."

His rivals will include TM Junior Johnson who won the $30,000 Texas Six Shooter for owner and breeder Todd Moak on February 18. Jose Figueroa remains on board for trainer Jerenesto Torrez.  Owner Sam Vasquez has the entry of Golly Bret and Sammy V. Golly Bret has won 12 of his 30 starts for Vasquez, who also bred the 7-year-old.  Sammy V finished third in the Texas Six Shooter, but defeated TM Junior Johnson last November in the Texas Arabian Lone Star Futurity at Lone Star Park.

"We are honored to host this exceptional racing event at Sam Houston Race Park," said Eric Johnston, vice president of racing. "Both stakes feature excellent fields of Arabians and we are pleased to serve as host site for the first race in this international racing festival."

The 2012 HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival Darley Awards and The HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Darley Award will take place on Sunday, March 4 in Houston at the JW Marriott. This year will mark newly-introduced HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Darley Awards of 6 categories for ladies: Best owner, breeder, trainer, jockey, Lifetime Award and Best Mare.

"We are looking forward to some exciting times with the Festival's activities here in the US and I have to thank His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States of America and his team for all their support as well as to Sam Houston Race Park, TABA and AJC," added Sawaya.

The HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival is organized by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and coordinated by Abu Dhabi Sports Council in association with Emirates Arabian Horse Society and IFAHR, supported by General Authority for Youth and Sports and Fegentri with Emirates airlines as the official carrier and sponsored by Invest AD, Al Rashid Investment, Areej Al Ameerat, Mauzan, Al Awani General Enterprises,Kabale, the UAE's General Women's Union, the Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy,Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition 2012, Wathba Stud Farm and Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.

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