Nicholas Balachard, master of Jebel Ali stables & racecourse is the perfect fit to share his opinion about Saudi Arabia and its new race day.
French emigre worked for the Saudi royal family for over eight years before moving to Dubai. He is very familiar with the inner workings and successes of Saudi Arabian racing.
While comparing the Gr.1 Dubai World Cup and The Saudi Cup, he says, “The Dubai World Cup is a well-established truly international race like The Breeders’ Cup, Kentucky Derby and the Hong Kong Cup. I have no doubt that Saudi Arabia will prove itself very soon.”
There have been significant highs. Bachalard has won more than 270 races in Saudi Arabia and saddled three-time US Grade One winner Ron The Greek to win The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup (King’s Cup), in 2015.
“They also have the nicest track after Santa Anita (USA). Most of the international jockeys who go there rave about the surface. It was well-thought-out and well-built, all of the turns are banked, it is very horse-friendly, with very few injuries. If they have that race, it is sure to be a good stage for it,” he said.
“The ground that surrounds it is also very well-maintained. Any international visitor will have a great experience.”
In 2018, When Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of Dubai was searching for a replacement at Jebel Ali Stables for Gopi Selvaratnam, who replaced his long-serving brother Dhruba, Bachalard was on the list. He was appointed head trainer at Jebel Ali Stables and Racecourse.
Balachard is no stranger to racing in Dubai, “One of my most memorable races in Dubai was when Cigar won the first Dubai World Cup,”
He has had his highs and lows in the Dubai World Cup Carnival. His pupil Ron The Greek, trailed in 12th in the World Cup in 2014. While Saudi-owned Nashmiah won the UAE 1,000 Guineas in 2017.
“She was the first Saudi-bred horse to win a pattern race.”
Looking back on his initial contact with the Royal family of Saudi Arabia he says, “They contacted me and asked me whether I was interested in coming to Saudi Arabia. I was a bit reluctant at the beginning I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I spoke to a few friends there, and they helped me make up my mind, and I have now been there for eight years.”
“Racing and breeding is constantly improving in Saudi Arabia.”
“The Saudi Cup may also give an opportunity to improve racing facilities available to locally bred horses.”
The top conditioner is in the process of rebuilding the Jebel Ali Stables. They have been purchasing yearlings and 2YOs in-training since his arrival.
It’s been a slow process but HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum but wanted it done right.
Grass racing offers fewer opportunities during the UAE season. So, he is keen to develop dirt horses.
Bachalard believes the time is ripe in Saudi Arabia.
“They have developed a great international racing program. Saudi Arabia is opening up and in the next few years, tourism will develop very well.”
“The Saudi’s are lovely people. The culture in Saudi has also changed. The infrastructure has come a long way,”
“As long as Saudi Racing keeps getting the support from King Salman and the royal family, it has a bright future,” said Bachalard.