The Doha Racing & Equestrian Club

Since the beginning of Arab civilization, horses have played an invaluable role in the wars and conquests that have shaped the Middle East. In the process, the quest to obtain the fastest horse for battle and communication led to the formalization of horse races. This tradition continues to the present, although more for pride than anything.

In Qatar, horse racing is serious business. The Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club (REC), which was established in 1975, holds races most Wednesdays and Thursdays from October to May on either its sand or turf tracks. Although the club holds thoroughbred, maiden, and handicap races, the real attraction is its purebred Arabian races, since the breed is native to the Arabian Peninsula.

The REC is also heavily invested in the international horse racing community and is currently the official sponsor of the Qatar Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, which is held in October, and is the most prestigious horse race in Europe. Since 1920, the race has been held at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris, and annually attracts over 70,000 spectators and close to 1 billion television viewers.

Although not Longchamp, the REC facilities are impressive. The living conditions of the horses at the REC made me question my own quality of life in Canada. Aside from its racing tracks, the REC boasts a horse rehab centre, numerous stables, several training facilities, a horse pool, and a whole staff dedicated to ensuring the horses are fit to race. I even noticed a horse ambulance parked adjacent to one of the stables.

Our cameraman, Tim Ziegler, and my colleague, Elaine Ng, had the opportunity to be up close and personal with one of the REC residents. The horse was nicknamed Princess, cost US$3.6 million, and stood very tall, and very proud. (And she seemed to understand English words like "beautiful horse," "gorgeous horse," "pretty horse," and so forth.) We were lucky to see the horse, explained the trainer, since she normally spends her time grazing in the green fields of Europe. What a life! Just another day at the races ...

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