Saturday, June 18, 2011

UAE: Down the stretch and straight to history - full Article

Amith Passela
Jun 19, 2011

Down the stretch and straight to history

Amith Passela
Jun 19, 2011
(Foreground) Fatma al Marri and Shathra al Hajjaj are set to become the first Emirati women jockeys to race on the flat.

Shathra al Hajjaj and Fatma al Marri, two ambitious young jockeys, are poised to become the first Emirati women to race on the flat today at the Duindigt Racecourse in Holland.

The two women, both experienced endurance and show-jumping riders, recently completed a month of intensive training in preparation for today's race.

They are among 10 women who will ride in the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Fegentri Cup, a 1,900-metre race for amateur jockeys.

"This is the biggest sporting moment in our lives," al Hajjaj said.

"We just can't wait to experience and soak in the excitement of being the first Emirati ladies to race on the flat and also abroad."

Al Hajjaj, 26, and al Marri, 17, travelled to France more than a week ahead of today's race to familiarise with the horses they will ride, and for a few workouts on the racetrack, as well.

They are both hoping their recent work at the Seeh Al Salam Stables in Dubai will pay off today.

"We started training more than a month ago," al Hajjaj said.

"It became not only a daily routine for both of us, but we also thoroughly enjoyed the track work, riding three different horses under race conditions, every day.

"They were all endurance horses and it was very hard work because we needed to push them really, really hard as they didn't have the speed of the flat-race horses.

"It was also completely different as we had to work muscles we never used in endurance riding..."

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