Sakheer, the new star horse of Supreme Council for Youth and Sport (SCYS) first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s KHK Racing team, is set to compete in the Group 1 QIPCO 2000 Guineas on Saturday where he will aim for a second Classic success.
Racing pundits suggest his biggest obstacles may not be the other runners but the length of the gruelling race and Britain’s inclement weather possibly producing a soggy experience.
The fearless thoroughbred has raced three times so far since 2022, finishing second in his debut at Windsor back in August, then racing to an impressive victory at Haydock in September. He ended the 2022 season with a win in the Mill Reef Stakes too later that month.
He is now looking for more glory at the historic Newmarket Racecourse. The 2000 Guineas is a mile-long flat race open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is one of Britain’s five Classic races and serves as the opener of the Triple Crown.
Sakheer, one of 15 horses in the running, is being prepared for the challenge by Roger Varian, a Classic-winning racehorse trainer in his 12th season.
The 44-year-old Newmarket-based Englishman has amassed more than 1,200 wins since 2011. “I feel incredibly lucky to be chosen by Shaikh Khalid to train the horse,” he told the GDN.
“We liked Sakheer immediately, he looked good from day one, and made an immediate impression.”
Varian remembers Sakheer’s debut fondly, citing a great performance which allowed the horse to hit the ground running in the following races. “He was a bit green in his first race, but still ran very well, it was a very good second place,” he said.
“It was a great start, and above normal performance for a debutant horse and we knew he would only improve from there.”
Varian has stated his confidence in Sakheer in the upcoming race, and has faith in the horse. “We’re confident in his ability as an exceptionally good race horse,” he said.
“These are best races in the world, with strong opposition but we are confident in a strong performance.”
Varian stated a slight concern with the weather, stating that an expected downpour might pose a challenge. “It’s longer than any race he’s run before, and rain makes the turf soft” he said.
“We prefer a firm turf, because a soft one puts extra emphasis on stamina making the race more difficult.”
Sakheer was purchased on behalf of Shaikh Khalid by veteran bloodstock agent, Irishman Oliver St Lawrence, at an auction in France.
“He looked like a lovely big, strong horse with lots of potential,” said the 57-year-old managing director of Oliver St Lawrence Bloodstock. “I was there with Roger (Varian) and we liked the look of him immediately.
“He looked like a powerful colt with a powerful shoulder. We saw him on a number of occasions prior to purchasing him and he was our number one choice heading into the auction, and I think it turned out well,” he said.
St Lawrence shares Varian’s confidence, believing he can do well despite the longer distance.
“He’s training very well and shown a lot of speed, although there is the question of whether he can race a mile.
“If the rain stays away, which we are praying it does, he has a very good chance of completing the mile,” he said.
Many of St Lawrence’s acquisitions have been made on behalf of long-standing client Fawzi Nass, and it was through the sports loving businessman that he established a connection with SCYS chairman Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, as well as Shaikh Khalid.
Bahraini owners have long enjoyed a close association with British racing. The last five years especially has seen a resurgence in their presence at the top table as a new generation made its impact felt across Britain’s key festivals and bloodstock sales.
KHK Racing increased its footprint in British racing in 2021, with 11 individual runners for seven different trainers, with seven runners producing a trio of wins in 2022 – including Bradsell and Eldar Eldarov – alongside two runner-up performances.
The race takes place on Saturday at 4.40pm (6.40pm Bahrain time).