The fifth running of the Bahrain International Trophy, and the first following the race’s elevation to Group 2 status, produced a memorable result and scenes of jubilation as the six-year-old gelding Spirit Dancer, co-owned and bred by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, scored a decisive victory to land the winner’s share of the $1 million prize fund.
In front of an excited crowd at the Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club, Spirit Dancer, ridden by Oisin Orr and trained by Richard Fahey, came clear of his rivals, leaving Israr and Point Lonsdale to fight out the finish for second and third place.
“Congratulations to the owners of the winner, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Ged Mason, following Spirit Dancer’s victory in the 2023 Bahrain International Trophy,” Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club (REHC) chairman Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said.
“It was a thrilling race to watch and, in terms of quality, it was the best horse race ever staged in the kingdom. I am also delighted to say it was witnessed by the largest audience yet in the race’s five-year history, both from the perspective of those present at the club and those watching around the world in the 110 countries where the race was broadcast.
“We are very proud of how the Bahrain International Trophy has grown, and I extend sincere thanks to the international participants who have supported the race and assisted in raising awareness of racing in Bahrain. I would also like to thank our commercial partners, Bapco Energies, Beyon, Bahrain Economic Development Board, and our official timekeeper, Chopard, without whom the progress we have made would not have been possible.
“We are already looking forward to 2024 and the hope that it can match this year’s running.”
In what was the strongest renewal in the race’s five-year history, the field included runners from five countries and included three previous Group 1 winners. The race was also more valuable than ever following an increase in the prize fund to $1m and the race’s status being upgraded to Group 2 level.
For 81-year-old Sir Alex, who owned and bred Spirit Dancer, and who won so many trophies during his remarkable career in football, it was a special day. He described it as the best moment of his racing life.
“That is the best moment (of my racing life), no doubt,” he said.
“When you looked at the field, I was worried. Godolphin, O’Brien, Fabre they’ve all got horses here. And we are just a wee stable from Yorkshire. It was a fantastic performance. He won well.
“When he hit the front, Ged just jumped on me! 100 yards out he looked like he was going to win but I didn’t want to count my chickens. I was just praying and he carried me over the line with him. He won well, won easy.”
Fahey said the win was a surprise given the competition Spirit Dancer had to face.
“This race has been the plan for some time, but to win it is a lovely surprise considering the quality of the opposition,” he explained.
“Our stay in Bahrain has been brilliant. Both Sir Alex and Ged have been incredibly well looked after and we have enjoyed every minute. Realistically, we didn’t think we would win, but Spirit Dancer and Oisin pulled it out of the fire and, in the end, he won well.”
In second place was Israr, owned by Shadwell Estates and trained in England by John and Thady Gosden, while in third was Point Lonsdale, owned by the Coolmore partners and trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien.
His Majesty King Hamad’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs, Supreme Council for Youth and Sports (SCYS) chairman Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, SCYS first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, royal family members and a number of senior officials, sponsors’ representatives and a large audience attended the race among others.
A total of seven Cup races were held for Beyon, Bapco Energies, Economic Development Board, Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, and Chopard, the Bahrain Jewellery Centre, sponsors of the international race:
The first race for the World Arabian Horse Organisation (Waho) Cup, for purebred Bahraini Arabian horses over 1,200m was won by Musannan 1811, owned by Al Wasmiya Stable, trained by Abdullah Kuwaiti, and ridden by Abdulla Jassim.
The second race for the Four Seasons Bahrain Bay Cup for the third category of first-class local horses over 1,200m straight was won by Khazzama, owned by Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa, trained by Haidar Ebrahim and ridden by Abdulla Faisal.
The third race for the Beyon Cup for local horses over 2,000m was won by Living Art, owned by Abdulla Sami Nass, trained by Fawzi Nass and ridden by Adrie de Vries.
The fourth race for the Bahrain Economic Development Board Handicap Cup for imported horses over 1,200m straight was won by Amaan, owned by Mohamed Jasim Jaafar, trained by Talal Alawi and ridden by Cristian Demuro.
The fifth race for the Bahrain Turf Club Cup for imported horses over 1,000m straight was won by Rebel at Dawn of Al Adiyat Racing Stables, trained by Alan Smith and ridden by Gerald Mosse.
The sixth race for the Bapco Energies Horseracing Handicap Cup for imported horses over 2,400m was won by Rayounpour of the Al Adiyat Racing Stables, trained by Smith and ridden by Richard Kingscote.
The seventh and final race for the Chopard Bahrain Jewellery Centre Handicap Cup for imported horses over 1,600m was won by Byline of Al Adiyat Racing, trained by Smith and ridden by Moose.