Race-ready Arabian horses will be on the auction block Sunday at Los Alamitos, and everyone concerned is hoping the sale leads to more races and stronger fields--immediately.
Los Alamitos offers the most Arabian races and the richest purses, but still trainers note small fields, especially at the beginning of each meeting. Equest International, the only exclusively Arabian sales company, came up with this sale to combat the problem.
“We have a minimum of eight races a week and we’re having trouble filling them,” trainer Bryan Braithwaite said. “This sale should mean a lot. It will spread 30 horses around, and they could each run three times a month.”
All 30 are ready to run and many already have. At the most recent Arabian sale, prices averaged $16,000 and topped at $47,250. A founder of the sales company, Randall Gault, expects this sale to do better.
“It’s an emerging business,” he said. “It parallels what happened in the thoroughbred market 20 years ago.”
Gault added that he expects quarter horse and thoroughbred owners to be among the bidders, as well as representatives of many royal families from the United Arab Emirates.
The Maktoum brothers of Dubai, who are also active thoroughbred owners, the Zayed brothers of Abu Dhabi and the Al Thani family of Qatar are major buyers in the emerging Arabian market. Although their presence has been a boon to sellers and breeders, their involvement also caused instability in the fledgling domestic racing scene.
Only available on the fair circuit in this country until recently, Arabian racing usually meant a competition of unsuccessful show horses. The breed got a boost in 1990 when legislation changed and Ed Allred, owner of Los Alamitos, started Arabian racing in Cypress.
The breed is also gaining popularity in Delaware, Colorado, Michigan and Texas. The number of horses registered to race increased 50% in the last year.
“People are just now starting to get serious,” Braithwaite said. “There’s enough money now for people to breed for the races. They’re not just taking show horses that weren’t quite good enough. For the first time we’re breeding race runners to race runners.”
And the results are clear. Braithwaite trained the 1987 champion, who ran six furlongs in 1:20. Now the track record is 1:17 2/5 and horses routinely run 1:18.
But as American racing started to grow, sheiks from the United Arab Emirates decided to build a racing circuit in their countries and shopped for horses in the U.S. market.
“They bought all the horses two years ago,” Braithwaite said. “People had $10,000 claimers that they got $35,000 for.”
The royal families also have been active in the thoroughbred market, but because the Arabian market is so much smaller, the results were more dramatic. In 1993, five of the top 10 California runners were owned by sheiks Falah Zayed, Tahnoon Bin Zayed or Mansoor Zayed. Another is owned by Qarn Racing of Qatar. When the California racing season ended in December, many horses were shipped overseas. Because of the 60-day quarantine, few return to race.
And the opportunity for American owners to sell for export continues. Three weeks ago, one of the largest Arabian breeders, Jim Wagner’s Colonial Ridge in Indiana, sold 78 horses to one of the Maktoums.
Los Alamitos trainers have about 250 horses on the grounds now but still cannot fill more than a couple of races a night with six-horse fields. And few of the horses are familiar to fans.
Braithwaite has 24 in his barn and 23 are maidens. Barbara Jagoda, one of the top five trainers from 1993, has 10 horses, and six are maidens. They estimate that 80% of the horses on the grounds are new since last year.
Although the sheiks’ involvement keeps jolting the growing racing circuit, the long-term effects are expected to be positive. The influx of money has encouraged more breeding of Arabian racehorses and improved the breed. And Gault, of Equest International, sees the royal connection as a continuing boost to the breeding business.
“They have good racing programs over there and breeding programs are getting started,” he said. “They’re going to send their mares to American stallions, so it’s coming around, starting to help on both ends.”
Sales barns will be open Friday and Saturday and a training preview is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. The auction begins at noon on Sunday.
Barbara Jagoda’s Magna Terra Smoky will probably be the favorite in the Equest International California Open on Friday. With each race, the one-eyed gelding proves tougher than his rivals, and the seven-furlong race, worth about $12,500, gives him another opportunity.
A three-time Arabian Racing Assn. of California horse of the year, Magna Terra Smoky is also favored to win the 1993 Arabian title, which will be announced at the ARAC annual awards dinner Saturday night.
Bits And Pieces, owned by Falah Zayed and trained by Don Collins, is a threat in the Equest International California Distaff to be run at seven furlongs Saturday.
In her last start May 1, Bits And Pieces romped to a 19 1/2-length victory in only a 4 1/2-furlong race. Her time of 57 seconds was only two-fifths of a second off the track record.
Bits and Pieces will have to race three-time national champion Fryga--she was top 3-year-old in 1990, top 4-year-old in 1991 and top older mare last year--and PS Crystal Sage, who won the California Girls Handicap at Los Alamitos in December.
Los Alamitos Notes
Make Mine Bud, trained by Blane Schvaneveldt, scored his second quarter horse stakes victory of the year last Saturday, leading wire to wire in the $40,000 Spencer Childers California Handicap. Owned by Bobby Cox and Herb Graham, Make Mine Bud ran his record to eight victories in 12 starts and his earnings to $74,834. Four Forty Blast, installed as the morning line favorite at 7-5, was scratched because of a high fever.
Mr. Diddy Wa Diddy defeated Stellar Trux by 2 1/2 lengths in winning the War Chic Handicap on Friday. The winning time for the 870-yard race was 45.17 seconds. . . . The handle at Los Alamitos topped $2.5 million for the 29 races offered Saturday. The track supplemented its 12 live races with nine simulcasts from Hollywood Park, two from Golden Gate Fields and five from Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day. A crowd of 9,100 attended the afternoon simulcasts and 6,537 were on hand for the live races.