DUBAI, (Pakistan Point News - 26th Oct, 2021) The Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) is all set to welcome racegoers back for its 2021-2022 UAE racing season. Ahead of the start of the season on 29 October, the Authority announced several ground-breaking initiatives including a programme that seeks to nurture Emirati management talent in the sector as part of advancing the development of the sport in the UAE.
Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmouk bin Juma Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of the ERA, announced the re-opening of gates for racing fans and welcomed the decision to fully resume normal activity at all the five UAE racecourses, following the country’s success in overcoming the pandemic.
"We greatly missed our fans in the past season, and we look forward to welcoming them back following the go-ahead given by UAE authorities to return to normal operations while comprehensively observing all COVID-19 protocols," Sheikh Rashid told a gathering of ERA officials at a recent meeting at the Authority’s offices. "As we begin to host a series of exciting races and implement new strategic initiatives, we will continue to work with our stakeholders, club management and relevant authorities to ensure that the return to full capacity crowds at our racecourses is done in a controlled environment that prioritises safety."
Sheikh Rashid also praised the leadership of the UAE and all stakeholders that contributed to the planning and decision-making process in the run-up to the new season. He also revealed that a new set of crowd protocols will be announced soon.
Highlighting the initiatives for the upcoming season, which promises to be the biggest and best in the Emirates Racing Authority’s history, Sheikh Rashid said he was enthusiastically looking forward to the programme that will see Emiratis with high levels of commitment and leadership skills playing a vital role in the governance of racing and all aspects of stewarding functions. "We already have substantial involvement from Emiratis through racehorse ownership, and we are pleased to be able to extend this opportunity to competent individuals to help steer and support our operations on race days," said Sheikh Rashid.
The meeting was also attended by Mohammed Saeed Al Shehhi, the recently appointed Director General of the ERA, who offered his full support for enhancing the growth and development of UAE horse racing according to a well-conceived strategic plan. Al Shehhi thanked UAE authorities and officials for their exceptional efforts to overcome the COVID crisis which has helped all activities and sports in the country to return to normal.
He said that the decision-making on protocols during race meets will be left to the individual clubs and authorities, adding that the ERA was looking forward to supporting them in administering the necessary rules and regulations. "Guided by the vision of our leaders, the UAE has successfully transitioned past the pandemic to a brighter sustainable future," said Al Shehhi. "However, we urge people attending racing events to fully abide by precautionary measures and respect the protocols to create a safe environment at our racecourses."
Considering the key role the Gulf has been playing in the growth of global horse racing, the Emirates Racing Authority is strengthening its partnerships with authorities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to grow the sport in the region.
"We are delighted that our partnerships with neighbouring countries promote close coordination and united efforts among horse racing authorities," said Al Shehhi. "We will expand our cooperation with our counterparts in Gulf countries and share ideas and expertise that will help the sport to develop further and create promising opportunities for the entire horse racing community and equestrian industry."
Al Shehhi also revealed that Mark Bird, the Irish Turf Club handicapper with over 20 years of experience in racing, will be joining the ERA in the same capacity for the 2021-2022 UAE racing season. The meeting also reviewed and discussed the recommendations and initiatives proposed at the previous ERA meetings and advised on the follow-up and implementation of key decisions.
One of the ERA’s key initiatives is to provide owners with more badges that will allow them to bring more friends and family to attend race meetings, which in turn will expand the community of fans at UAE racecourses. Two other key decisions will see races being split into two divisions if they receive a large number of declarations. Subsequently, the ERA will compensate for the appropriate prizemoney to be shared in the case of a split. Furthermore, for the first time, connections will only have to pay a single entry fee for attending all the races that they have entered. Connections include people connected to a horse entered in a race including the owner, trainer, rider and stable employees.
Another ground-breaking decision was made to look into the possibilities of allowing horses that were entered for the Dubai World Cup Carnival to compete at races in Abu Dhabi and Jebel Ali Racecourse in major Patter Races like the National Day Cup, Jebel Ali Stakes, Mile, and Sprint, should quarantine regulations allow. Until recently, Carnival horses were only cleared to race at Carnival events.
On the management side, it was decided to appoint a Racing Secretary to manage the drafting of conditions governing races and help coordinate between UAE racecourses and the ERA management. A new Trainer’s Committee will help connections to communicate with authorities on issues related to racing including rules and general inquiries among others. All attendees at the meeting agreed that the Committee will go a long way in helping connections engage with authorities.