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All Eyes On Handassa

Handassa has been impressing his work-rider Doric Binot in Meydan this week

Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Neville Hopwood

All Eyes On Handassa

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Purebred Arabian Handassa (FR), trained by François Rohaut in Pau in the South West of France, is the horse everyone has to beat in this year’s edition of the Dubai Kahayla Classic, empowered by IPIC.

That is the word on the street and is a scenario his work rider Doric Binot, who has come over to Dubai with him from France, imagines every day when he goes out for a canter on the Meydan track.

“You always like to believe in the horse that you look after,” he explains. “But he is in great form and obviously won his race here in the beginning of the month. So we know he definitely likes the dirt.”

Originally apprenticed to Carlos Laffon-Parias in Chantilly, Binot used to ride as a Flat jockey before weight issues caught up with him and he switched to jump racing.

However, a heavy fall put an end to that career and it has now been nearly two years that he has worked for François Rohaut. “We only have about ten Purebred Arabians in our yard,” he continues. “The others are Thoroughbreds. In fact, last year, I came to Dubai with the filly Farmah, who ran in the Al Quoz Sprint. She too is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”

Sheikh Hamdan actually visited the quarantine stable on Monday and Binot was impressed: “It was quite amazing to meet him. He is really interested in the horse and it was just great to see him here.”

The owner-breeder has always had a great affinity with Purebred Arabian horses and nothing would please him more than a victory of six-year-old Handassa, whose sire Madjani lifted the event three consecutive times from 2005 to 2007.

By nature, they are not known to be easy rides and Binot confirms: “To ride a Purebred Arabian, you have to indulge them. They are much more sensitive and you constantly have to nurture them.

“It’s about finding the right balance of keeping them fresh, whilst coaxing them into doing a bit of serious work. You need to amuse them, keep them interested. I know this sounds strange, but in the morning you have to let them believe that they dominate. So you kind of want them to pull your arms out, because that means they believe in themselves and they can take you to the finish line.”

With Handassa, though, there is no great worry that he has to be coaxed and his work rider smiles when he says: “Handassa is one of the easier ones to ride, which by the way is the reason that he is so exceptional.

“It’s always the good ones who know how to work. He is a very generous horse who has a lot of experience, as he has travelled a lot in his life. So he would be easier to prepare for such a big race than, let’s say, a horse that isn’t quite as good. I don’t ride him every day, but I do ride him often when he works.”

Rohaut does not make a difference between his horses. Unlike the UK, where Purebred Arabians cannot share the same yard with Thoroughbreds, in France, they are trained from the same yard at the same time and on the same track as all the other horses.

With Handassa, it was immediately obvious that he possessed an exceptional talent. Binot concludes: “We are lucky that we have great pedigrees in our yard. But Handassa just stands out. He is physically impressive and he works together with the Thoroughbreds.

“Naturally we know that the Purebred Arabians don’t go as fast as the Thoroughbreds and one must be aware of that. But Handassa, he is seriously strong.”

Following last year’s victory with Manark, some familiar colours could be flying high once again in the Dubai Kahayla Classic.

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