By Sam Turner -
These are exciting times for RRR Racing. The operation owned by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi is enjoying real momentum on the track with its 18-strong team, while a talented crop of broodmares are producing the stars of the future in Kentucky.
In an exclusive interview, Muammar Abdullah, racing manager to Sheikh Rashid, gives Adiyat Racing Plus readers the low down on stars like Isolate, Switzerland and Clapton and outlines the vision RRR have for the future.
ST: Thank you for your time Muammar, welcome.
MA: Hi Sam, it is always a pleasure to speak to AR+, and it’s exciting to look forward to the new season here in the UAE with you.
ST: Before we chat about some of your headline makers, could you quickly explain how RRR operate and what are your visions?
MA: We have various horses, so at the start of every season the plan is to have young horses which can be raised step by step from their time as a yearling or from the Breeze Ups until they hopefully reach the level that you have planned for them. It is virtually impossible to buy horses from America which are at the top of the tree as they often have stud careers planned or are simply unbuyable.
So, we must identify the horses with potential that haven’t reached the top. This is how we buy our horses and, thankfully, we have enjoyed a lot of success doing things that way with the likes of Second Summer, Isolate,
Sound Money, Rawy, Logo Hunter etc . . . Now we are breeding from some of the mares that used to run in our colours so when they are retired, they go to Kentucky, and we breed from them.
ST: The breeding side of the operation seems a really exciting development, will we see the fruits of your labour on the track soon?
MA: Yes, the young horses have already started to come through the system and we have some classy mares back in Kentucky which are producing lovely looking youngsters. One such example is Rayya who was second in the UAE Guineas before she went on to win the UAE Oaks when trained by Doug Watson in 2018. She was also good enough to finish second in the UAE Derby to Mendelssohn. We ran her in America, but she picked up a small injury, so it was wise to breed from her.
We have a filly by Quality Road and she had a colt from Into Mischief. She also now has a colt by Speightstown so we have three nice foals from her to look forward to.
ST: I notice that you picked up a trophy on the opening day of Jebel Ali’s season when a horse in very familiar colours won, can you tell us more?
MA: We have some nice horses for the new season and, one of those, Rayig has already made his first start a winning one for Sheikh Humaid who is the son of Sheikh Rashid. Rayig wore the new silks that were gifted by Abdullah Buhaleeba and were previously worn by Shamardal. He had given them to Sheikh Rashed as a gift, so it was very lucky and winning with the first runner gives you a boost for the upcoming season!
ST: Doug (Watson) has clearly been a brilliant trainer for you, but you have also
enjoyed great success with a number of other trainers - how do you decide which ones should look after your horses?
MA: My main job is to see the strength of each trainer and I discuss it with Sheikh Rashid. We decide which trainer is best with sprinters or perhaps middle-distance types, so it depends on the horses. We may see a horse, evaluate the form and perhaps purchase them, then we discuss and ask, ‘Does he suit the training programme of that particular trainer?’ We discuss it with the boss, and we decide which trainer to give the horse to. We have around 18 horses in training with four different trainers – the main one is Doug Watson, and we also have horses with Musabbeh Al Mheiri, Bhupat Seemar and Julio Olascoaga.
American trainer Chad Summers has also joined the team.
ST: You mentioned earlier that buying at
the top level is virtually impossible. Without giving away too many secrets, how do you manage to source your future winners? MA: So, we have to identify the horses with potential that haven’t reached the top which involves a lot of hard work and research. My son, Abdullah, is also involved in the process as he is a very talented boy and has been mad on horses since the age of eight. You can ask him about any horse running in Europe and America and he will tell you about his performance, about his pedigree, the result – he’s my dictionary!
He has good eyes. He says, ‘Dad, this is a good horse, you can watch him’ and invariably he is right. I really appreciate the trust that Sheikh Rashid has in me, and he is aware of every single step. I give him a full report on how a horse is progressing, and we then make a decision – it’s teamwork.
ST: That teamwork has led to you having an exciting crop of contenders for some of the high-quality races run here in the Middle East. Perhaps it is time you told AR+ readers of your plans for Isolate, Switzerland and Clapton.
MA: It would be my pleasure Sam.
He is a special horse to the Sheikh, to me, to the whole team. We bought him because of his pedigree, but when we bought him here with Steve Asmussen, he didn’t show his best. So, the key was to keep him here and we gelded him at six. When he ran over 1400m he was very good, but when he used to run, he would stop inside the final 100m. So, one time we ran him over 1200m in a Listed race, he was slowly away and had the whole field in front of him.
He then came to the straight and shot past all of his rivals to win by nearly 10 lengths (beating Gladiator King) very impressively. The key was that we now knew how to ride him. We have always had big faith in him, and he repaid us when winning the Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2022 very impressively.
Last year was so frustrating to finish second (in the Golden Shaheen) by such a small margin, but we were very proud of him. He has been an incredible horse for us and he’s back in training for us as a nine-year-old. He’s a happy horse. He’s full of himself and we are looking forward to a good season with him. He will have his first gallop next week and we take it easy with him. He will tell us when he is ready – he is the type that will show us.
At the start of his training, he is a little bit cheeky, but as he gets into his work, he comes alive and becomes very alert and focused. He’s nine years old, but he has a big heart and is very talented. He is a very professional horse, for a sprinter he likes to do things his own way, he walks by himself and even in the saddling area he is so quiet and so professional, until he gets in the gate!
Is one of the horses from the team that I love the most. Since day one when we bought him, we had very high hopes for him, and he has never let us down. He started his career very consistently and every trainer would love to have a horse like Isolate because of his temperament, character and his professionalism – he is such a nice horse to deal with. Even when we had a bunch of new
horses which came into the group, Sheikh Rashid would ask me and my son who our favourite horse was, and we would always answer Isolate. Me and my son disagree on many things, but one thing we do agree on is Isolate!
In the morning, he does everything correctly and the big challenge for us was stretching him out to a mile in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile. Tyler Gaffalione told my son that he wanted to ride him and, although Pat Dobbs had first choice, he chose to ride Prince Eiji for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum.
We knew Isolate was the best chance of the night for us as we knew he stays and has a lovely long stride, plus he was quick from the gates, so the race was perfect for him. He was very impressive that day. He will do his first piece of work at Meydan this week and we will then hopefully aim for the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 before heading out to the Saudi Cup. If he handles the 1800m out there then we will talk to the boss and consider the Dubai World Cup or come back to the 1600m for the Godolphin Mile once more. Isolate is so versatile that you could start him over 1200m as a prep, put him over 1400m or run him at a mile – his greatest attribute is his consistency, and he will always give you his best performance.
We bought him two months ago and he hasn’t had a proper break for 26 months. It’s like he’s had 26 races in a row, so it has been really hard for him.
We bought him and shipped him to Chad (Summers) and he ran with great credit to finish fourth in a Grade 1 at Saratoga not long after joining Chad. We then took him to the Lukas Stakes, a Grade 2 at Churchill Downs, and he was very impressive to win that day under Christian Torres, staying on strongly to win. That victory got him a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup and, although he wasn’t disgraced, that wasn’t his true running as he was a tired horse. He has since been at the farm and has enjoyed a nice three-week break before we’ll ship him here to Dubai on the 15th January. Hopefully, you’re going to see him in the Maktoum Challenge Round 2 before going to the Dubai World Cup. Those are the two races for him. His best trip is 2000m and, although he is a slow starter, he doesn’t mind kickback, he just needs a strong pace where there is plenty of speed at the beginning of the race as he is a very good finisher.
I’m really looking forward to seeing him over 1900m in the Maktoum Challenge, then we’ll skip Saudi Arabia and concentrate on the Dubai World Cup.