Amir's Sword Festival brings the world to Qatar

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Amir's Sword Festival brings the world to Qatar
Caption: French King sweeps to victory in the $1 million H. H. The Amir's Trophy at Al Rayyan Racecourse in Doha on Saturday. Photo courtesy Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club

A very international renewal of the Amir's Sword Festival at Al Rayyan Racecourse in Doha, Qatar, featured a 1-2 French sweep of the $1 million H. H. The Amir's Trophy Presented by Longines, a first-ever runner for Japan and a successful visit by a Japanese jockey, and a stirring triumph by a British-trained 3-year-old now headed to the French Guineas.

Ireland's Ryan Moore and American Tyler Gaffalione rode in Qatar for the first time, although Moore could only finish third in the Trophy aboard Hunting Horn and Gaffalione essentially eased Liam the Charmer, the festival's only U.S. runner, when he ran out of gas in the stretch.


Jockey Olivier Peslier sent aptly named French King to an early lead in the 1 1/2-miles Trophy, rationed his speed and had plenty left in the final furlongs down the Al Rayyan turf. Fellow French raider Royal Julius chased him home, followed by Hunting Horn and two-time Trophy winner and local favorite The Blue Eye. French King finished in 2:26.12 over firm turf.

"He jumped very well and he was really happy in front," Peslier said of French King. "Happy horses make happy people."


Liam the Charmer's trainer, Michael McCarthy, told Gaffalione in the unsaddling enclosure, "For seven-eighths of a mile, I really loved where you were."

The jockey explained he was following Hunting Horn down the backstretch and felt he was well positioned. Then, "No horse." Gaffalione said he didn't sense anything wrong with Liam the Charmer other than his inability to get the distance.

French King is a 4-year-old, British-bred colt by French Fifteen, trained in France by Henri-Pantall for Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Thani. French King was making his first start since Oct. 27.

The race is not beyond the scope of American horses. Money Multiplier traveled from the United States to finish third in the 2018 edition of the Trophy.

The Festival features both Thoroughbred and Purebred Arabian racing over three days of action. The featured attraction for the Arabians in the H. H. The Amir's Sword, which also has a $1 million purse. The weekend is the highlight of the racing season in Qatar and the Amir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, personally presides over the major races and presents the prizes.

Ryu Abe, a 23-year-old NRA jockey making his first trip from Japan, won two races during the program.


Global Spectrum, a 4-year-old Dutch Art colt, won Saturday's Al Biddah Mile while stepping up in class. Gay Kelleway, who trains him in England, celebrated the win enthusiastically in the walking ring and said Global Spectrum will go on to the French Guineas.

Owner Dr. Johnny Hon, who splits his time between London and Hong Kong, said Global Spectrum could have a global program if he continues his development.


Wissahickon has emerged as the star of this season's All-Weather Championships -- so much so that, after his Saturday victory in the Group 3 Betway Winter Derby at Lingfield Park, he could be headed to Dubai rather than the Good Friday finals and, eventually, to the New World.

The 4-year-old Tapit colt scored his third straight win over 10 furlongs by taking the Winter Derby by 3 1/4 lengths from Court House. He earlier accounted for the Betway Quebec Stakes and the Betway Winter Derby Trial.

Jockey Frankie Dettori, who no longer takes just any old mount, was in the irons for trainer John Gosden in Wissahickon's latest triumph, moving from mid-pack to take the lead entering the straight, leaving no doubt as to the outcome. The George Strawbridge homebred finished in 2:01.28.


"Obviously, there is big race here on Good Friday and we will see whether we freshen him up and wait for that, which would be the logical thing to do," Gosden said. "We might look at the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic if there was an invitation to run in the race ...

"I think there is a chance that Wissahickon could be racing in America next year or the back end of this season as there are a couple of nice races for him," Gosden added. "I don't know whether he would be suited to dirt racing, which is a little different to this surface."


After dominating its own meeting Thursday at Meydan, Godolphin continued its worldwide winning skein in Saturday's Group 1 Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes for 2-year-olds as Lyre rallied under Luke Currie to get home first by 1/2 length from Lankan Star.

The win backed up victory the Godolphin's Exhilarates in last month's Star Gold Coast Magic Millions and was a nice companion to the same outfit's victory in Saturday's Group 1 Yulong Futurity with Alizee, one race before the Blue Diamond score.

Lyre, a daughter of Lonhro, now is 3-for-4 and trainer Anthony Freeman said she was unlucky not to have won her first start.


"She's kept improving with each run. They ran a fairly good time, and she was the strongest at the finish," the trainer told ANZ Bloodstock News. "She's had four good runs from Jan. 1 through until now, so we will take stock of today and see what happens."

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