The runners and riders for the 2023 Bahrain International Trophy have been confirmed and 14 horses are set to go to post in what is the strongest field yet in the race’s five-year history. The runners are headed by three-time Group 1 winner, Nation’s Pride, the mount of British champion jockey William Buick, who is hoping for a change in luck in what will be his fourth attempt to win Bahrain’s showpiece event.
The 14-runner field at the Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club (REHC) track will be competing for a $1m prize fund and the race has attracted overseas-trained horses from France, Great Britain, Ireland and the UAE, as well as two locally-trained runners.
“The Bahrain International Trophy is the showpiece event in our racing calendar,” REHC chairman Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said.
“This year, it is more valuable than ever and the growth of the race’s stature on the world stage has been recognised with its upgrade to Group 2 status.
“The progress we have made in recent years is evident through the calibre of horses attracted and the increasing scale of international participation.
“Following an increase in the prize fund, the Bahrain International Trophy will be the first $1m race to be run in the kingdom and the line-up is the strongest in the race’s history. We extend a warm welcome to all the connections of overseas trained horses and look forward to a memorable race on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Buick, retained as first jockey to the Godolphin operation and recently crowned British champion jockey for the second year in a row, is one of seven current or former champion jockeys from Great Britain, France or Ireland engaged to ride in the race.
In three previous attempts in the Bahrain International Trophy, Buick has yet to finish closer than seventh, but he believes Nation’s Pride represents his best chance yet.
“Nation’s Pride is a very good horse,” he said.
“He was a classy three-year-old and went into the 2021 Derby as a genuine contender but, on the day, he probably didn’t stay. But he has always been held in high regard and he has performed really well since.”
This season Nation’s Pride has won two Group 1 races, the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis-Bayerisches in July in Germany and then last month the Canadian International.
“When he won the Group 1 in Germany, he gave me a really good feel,” Buick added.
“He beat the German Derby winner in good style. Then, last time out in Canada, the soft ground was not to his liking, but he still won.
“He’s a very straightforward horse to ride. I have not had much luck in the race previously but this fella is different, he’s a mile-and-a-quarter specialist and I think he is a real good candidate.
“Nation’s Pride is the best chance I have in the Bahrain International Trophy but it is a strong line-up, a really competitive field, and on good, fast ground, you are going to need to have the margins in your favour.”
“I love going to Bahrain. It is a very fair track and they do a great job with the ground and the crowd there love their racing, they’re very enthusiastic. I am looking forward to it.”
Charlie Appleby, trainer of Nation’s Pride, also saddles Highland Avenue, while Saeed Bin Suroor’s two runners, last year’s Bahrain International Trophy winner Dubai Future and the Group 1-placed Real World, complete a four-strong challenge from Godolphin.
Among the horses travelling from Europe is the French Classic winning colt Marhaba Ya Sanafi, who, as well as winning a Group 1 over a mile, was third in the French Derby. Representing the powerful Coolmore operation from Ireland are two horses, Point Lonsdale, trained by Aidan O’Brien and the mount of Ryan Moore, and Above The Curve, trained by Joseph O’Brien.
The strength of the line-up combined with the quality of jockeys travelling to Bahrain for the race has delighted those who have overseen the race’s development since its inception in 2019.
The draw to establish each runner’s starting gate takes place on Wednesday evening.