Breeders' Cup and Arabian Racing

When Breeders' Cup got regulatory approval Sept. 19 to add a grade I Arabian race to its Nov. 1 World Championships program at Santa Anita Park, there was a flurry of sarcasm on Twitter, but it quickly ended.

That's good. There are legitimate issues on which to question Breeders' Cup, but an Arabian race isn't one of them. It's surprising one hasn't been part of the program until 2013.

Arabian racing remains a novelty in the United States even though, according to the Arabian Horse Association, there are more than 660,000 registered Arabians in the U.S., the most of any country. Few race; the Arabian Jockey Club says there is no "100% accurate test to see if your horse is racing material."

That goes for other breeds as well. But those who invest in Arabians, study breeding that may lend to racing, and compete in the handful of states that offer Arabian racing can reap some reward in the U.S.

My first experience with Arabian racing came at Delaware Park in the 1980s. To this day the track still cards Arabian races, including AJC-graded stakes. The Arabian program has served an important purpose there–filling out programs when there aren't enough Thoroughbreds.

Delaware, California, Colorado, Michigan, and Texas have tracks that offer limited Arabian racing. Only recently did Churchill Downs, Keeneland, and Pimlico Race Course host grade I Arabian events as part of major programs.

Top breeding states such as Florida and Kentucky seem like naturals for some sort of Arabian racing program, but there is no indication that's going to happen. A logical location in the Bluegrass State would be the Quarter Horse track Keeneland may build near the Tennessee border, but plans call only for a straightaway course.

The good thing about Arabian racing is it's like handicapping Thoroughbreds. The distances are the same; Arabians just race about 8 seconds slower. They do, however, seem to hold their form.

And though bred to go long distances, Arabians in the U.S. are racing-trained–unfortunately perhaps–like Thoroughbreds.

Breeders' Cup officials said the Arabian race and new partnership with the Emirates Equestrian Federation are designed to spur growth in Arabian and Thoroughbred racing. There's nothing wrong with that; in fact, it's probably healthy.

And if you are anti-Arabian racing, don't worry. The Nov. 1 race won't be part of those precious multi-race "pick" wagers. It will be a standalone show–this year at least.


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For those of us who race Arabians, it is just as rewarding to win a race as it is with Thoroughbreds.  I have, and do, race Thoroughbreds and Arabians.  Arabians stay sound, race well beyond their 3 year-old year and absolutely run to form.  I currently have a 12- year-old still racing, who has won 16, placed 16 and showed 14 times in an 80-race career and who is still sound and without a blemish on him.  He has been twice voted California Horse of the Year and I am looking forward to November.  The catastrophic breakdowns that have caused so much consternation and head-scratching is almost nil with Arabians and in my experience over the past 12 years of racing Arabians, only know of five or six in that period of time to have suffered catastrophic injuries.  Bravo to the Breeders' Cup.

24 Sep 2013 12:40 PM
Fred and Joan

We at one time had a 16-year-old 3/4 Arabian named Turk we used to train young Thoroughbreds to saddle and bridle.  Many times Turk was faster and quicker than the 3-year-old Thoroughbreds we were training. The owners always became disappointed when we would explain to them that their young, big horse would make an excellent pony or outrider horse at the track but did not have sufficient speed to race. Turk was an even balance of Polish and Egyptian pedigrees.

24 Sep 2013 12:43 PM

Those people who disparage the Arabian horse should remember that the Thoroughbred would not be a breed without the Arabian.  Neither would the Quarter Horse, and several other breeds.  The stamina the Thoroughbred has comes from the Arabian.  I remember talk several years ago about re-introducing Arabian blood to reinvigorate the gene pool and to bring more stamina back to the breed.

24 Sep 2013 12:55 PM

I think it would add to the breeders' cup. I would enjoy watching arabs race.

24 Sep 2013 12:58 PM
Pedigree Ann

Arabs and Arab-crosses dominate distance races in this country and the world. At 50 miles or 100 miles, there is nothing to challenge the Arabian. So why do they want to race them at TB distances of 6F or a mile? It does not show them to best advantage.

P.S. The Turk and Barb horses were also sources of stamina in the TB breed. The conflating all Oriental horses with the ancestors of modern Arabians is inaccurate.

25 Sep 2013 8:51 AM

The Arabian is the oldest PURE blood breed and as stated before has contributed to the formation of MANY other breeds.   The Polish breeders have been "race-testing" their horses for decades as a way of determining who "deserves" to go to the breeding shed and pass on their genes.   This includes the mares as well as the stallions.   Seems to me the Thoroughbreds could use that philosophy instead of the "precocious, fast running, get them to the sales" philosophy.  

25 Sep 2013 9:59 AM
Alicia McQuilkin

As soon as I heard that the BC was doing this, I thought it was a great supplement for the races, something to stick around for. Although, I'm guessing it won't be shown on NBC's coverage (though it would be brilliant to promote other-breed racing, especially to kids who may have an Arabian or more 'showy' breed) so I'll just have to YouTube it afterwards.  I'd love to see a longer distance race, 2+miles in this exhibition rather than 6F-8F. One of the Arabian's biggest traits (and strongest genetic influence they've passed, particularly Morgans and T-breds) is their stamina. It would be novel to see if the race dynamics play out any differently in these longer races. Racing needs more novelty, everyone gets excited for something new and different.

25 Sep 2013 1:04 PM

As an owner and breeder of Arabians I have been following Arabian racing pretty closely for about 7 years. I attended the 1st Arabian race at Keenland (2010)(beautiful place) and both times that they raced at Churchill (2011 and 2013). I am about to send my first racing prospect into training next week. I have raised 3 foals and she is the best one yet. She is a strong beautiful alpha Arabian mare with more than 7 generations of good solid, sound, and very successful racing Arabians. As this is my first venture into racing; I am forming a partnership.  One of my goals is that she will run in one of the UAE president's cup races.  If anyone would like to know more or would like to follow her progress as she starts training feel free to contact me at - if you like what you see we may still have some openings in the partnership- currently there are 2-4 openings.  I am looking forward to see who will be running in the Arabian race at the Breeders' Cup- the breed is making amazing strides in the industry.

01 Oct 2013 10:31 PM

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