Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Happier Sheikh

Sheikh Mohammed, his wife Princess Haya, and Truly Royal

Sometimes I hear an inner voice, and yesterday it said “Maktoum.”

The Maktoums are the royal family of Dubai, and apparently they have transformed horse racing in the past 40 years – for better or worse is a subject of debate. So despite being really busy, I found an hour to sit at the Keeneland library and browse through their considerable collection of articles about the Maktoums.

One thing jumped out. A quote by Sheikh Mohammed, current ruler of Dubai and owner of Godolphin Farms: 

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“Don’t forget that horses have been bred for centuries by Arabic tribes. They were used for hunting and fighting and they symbolize our history. Horse riding is more than merely sitting on a horse’s back. It is nobility and chivalry.” 

I like that. Except... it looks like 300 years of Europeans and Americans breeding thoroughbreds is kind of a blip on the Arabian radar. The Sheikh comes to Lexington every year, spends millions on the best horses, then ships a lot of them back to Dubai. There's even a billboard in Dubai that says: Godolphin, Bringing the Racehorse Home. Just wondering at what point a horse becomes a Kentuckian...?

Nobility, chivalry, cultural preeminence. Then you have the regular folks, like this guy and his horse. I mean, poodle. (Is that a baseball base?) The footage is beautiful, although it makes me kinda nervous. Maybe it's the whole romping-with-a-thousand-pound-animal thing. 

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