Jan Zabieglik in conversation with trainer Maciej Kacprzyk
Trainer, quick and simple. Should some Arabian races at Służewiec still remain closed according to tradition, or should the existing division into international Arabian-type races for horses entered into the Poland Arabian Stud Book (PASB) and open races be abolished?
Maciej Kacprzyk: I believe that in the discussion on Arabian horse racing in Poland, it is necessary to separate the issues of supporting horses bred in Poland and registered in the PASB from the so-called Arabian-type races. I do not consider the latter to be a justified solution that corresponds to the Polish breeding tradition. In my opinion, this is a missed idea that unfairly tries to fall under the myth of beautiful and brave “Pure Polish” horses. It is enough to look at the pedigrees of the horses running in these races and their subsequent use. In most cases, after a year’s racing career they are sold as geldings. Their pedigree is also not purely Polish, because either the sire is of foreign breeding, or the dam’s sire, or both. Moreover, it is not a performance trial of selective importance and therefore races of this type are should not be recognized as official. A racing career is a test of stamina when its result is taken into account when making breeding decisions. Is this the case with horses participating in Arabian-type races? No! When crossing mice with tails cut off, we won’t breed tail-less mice. Sending show horses to races will not make them more courageous without taking into account their talent on track when breeding. In general, I believe that all Arabian horse races should be open and breeders and owners of Polish bred horses should receive percentage bonuses dependent on the horse’s performance. Current financial support from the Polish Jockey Club for Polish breeders and bonuses for owners of Arabian horses entered in the PASB, is in my opinion a step in the right direction. The situation is similar in France, with the difference that the bonuses are even higher there. I have I hope that also in Poland these bonuses will grow and will support breeding and owners of the best Polish Arabians running on the track.
A separate issue is the discussion on races for Polish-bred old-style horses (“beautiful and brave”), bred not only for shows, but also brave under saddle. I understand this romantic myth because I myself had been raised believing in it. I would just like to remind people who are calling for races for this type of horse that first, there must be breeders who want to breed these horses, secondly, there must be owners who will keep them in training, incurring very high costs. In addition, there is the organizer of the races, which has to provide an appropriate prize pool and a sensible program. Judging coldly and without emotions, these conditions are currently unfulfilled. Such horses are simply not bred in Poland, Arabians are divided into horses for shows and horses for races. Perhaps the role of the state studs is to return to the old traditions, because only here would I see an opportunity to reactivate the breeding of horses such as Batyskaf or Pamir, Derby winners and Polish champions. If we look at modern Arabian horse breeding only in terms of the market, then races for such horses have no right to exist. Whether the role of the state studs to maintain “conservative breeding” with a stamina trial for Arabian horses on the racetrack, that is a topic for a separate discussion. It cannot be reduced to the issue of managing show colts that were born with a straight head.
Polish private breeders have been using the semen of top sires for several years now. First, Nougatin (son of the famous Amer) was fashionable, then Dahess (also son of Amer), then Munijz (who sire the wonderful filly Arwa, who made an extraordinary surprise by beating your Shadwan Al Khalediah), Murhib (son of Amer), and now Mared El Sahra (also son of Amer). Also Janów Podlaski has had a racing path related to Amer for several years. His son, the Swedish Portmer, used at this stud gave two brave stallions: first Bandolero became a vice-Derby winner 2017, and a year later Severus won the blue Derby ribbon. Janów Podlaski, as the only owner in Poland, entered Shahad Atbah for racing, the British daughter of Amer, which Athbah Stud donated to Janów in 2015. It is true that she won only three cat. B stakes (Czort, Kurozwęki and Figaro), but she belonged to the very best, among others second in the Europa Cup (2017) and in the Criterium St. (2018). Janów is also the owner of the French SS Mothill, whose paternal grandfather is the aforementioned Amer. As you can see, this legendary stallion, who has original Arabian parents, is enrooted deeply not only in French, but also Polish Arabian races. For several years, Polska AKF has been sending first or second generation offspring of the original Arabian Tiwaiq to Służewiec. Even in 2010, when the Europa Cup was included in the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Nahyana series of races, the World Arabian Horse Organization (WAHO), had serious reservations about his origin. It was then won by the Saudi-bred son of Tiwaiq, Muqatil Al Khalediah, trained in France, who set a track record over 2600 m: 2’56’3. At that time, he could not race anywhere in Europe, except in Poland. How did WAHO finally solve this problem?
Maciej Kacprzyk: In the memorandum of June 6, 2011, WAHO unequivocally closed the discussion on whether there is any admixture of foreign blood in Tiwaiq’s veins. At a meeting in Warsaw, the WAHO Executive Committee voted to reject all comments about his origin, noting that Tiwaiq was properly entered in the Saudi stud book since 1991, and WAHO stud books have been closed since 2004 and the entry of any horses registered prior to that date can no longer be contested. So a discussion over his purity from the formal side has long been closed. And by the way, I will add that both Tiwaiq and Amer are Saudi Arabians, bred in the same place by the same breeder. Amer was a gift from the King of Saudi Arabia to the Emir of Qatar. The Orthodox are undermining not only the purity of Tiwaiq and Amera, but also the purity of the French Saint Laurent, the French Dragon and the American Burning Sand. It is clearly visible that Służewiec is becoming a place of competition for the offspring of two legendary stallions – Amer and Tiwaiq. In a few years, their descendants born in Poland and entered into the PASB will win the Polish Derby. I do not see anything wrong in it. For several years now, the Thoroughbred Derby has been won by horses purchased at foreign auctions and no one is tearing their robes for this reason. We live in the 21st century. If a racing spectacle is to attract new viewers, the best actors must participate. Of course, in races held in Poland, Polish-bred horses should be additionally supported financially, but these bonuses should depend on the results. The extra money should go to the best horses. This is the healthiest solution, in my opinion, more sensible than closing races exclusively for PASB horses. I do not think that you should criticize breeders who have bet on breeding racing Arabians and use foreign blood for this purpose. There is no other way to appear in the races at Służewiec, as breeding to the best sires. Some of our owners and breeders, such as Zbigniew Górski, Krzysztof Zakolski, Magdalena and Daniel Gromala, are doing great and achieving significant successes. The 2019 Derby winner Dragon bred and owned by Zbigniew Górski, the wonderful mare Shannon Queen bred by Mr and Mrs Gromala, or last year’s Derby winner Grand Dakris of Krzysztof Zakolski, are examples of horses bred in Poland that can compete with horses bred from abroad. I believe that with conscious and consistent breeding decisions in Poland, Arabian horses can be born, which will win the most important races in the world. This is not a fad. Poland may soon become a Mecca for Arabian horses in Europe! It would be a sin not to take advantage of it. Today, the greatest potential for the development of horse racing in Poland lies precisely in international Arabian horse racing.
But are you not a bit biased, because you got some dozen French “Al Khalediahs” horses to train from Polska AKF Sp in the first four years of running the stables, two of which have already turned out to be outstanding for Polish conditions. Salama won the Europa Cup (2019) and G3 in Milan (2020) and Shadwan, winner of the Europa Cup winner (2020). He did not win abroad, but was in the top three several times.
Maciej Kacprzyk: Of course, AKF Polska is the father of my successes from the very beginning of my career. I got horses for training, admittedly without racing careers, but with very good pedigrees with great potential. Trainer Michał Borkowski from Wrocław thanks to the victory of Fazza Al Khalediah in the most important race for Arabian horses in Europe – Qatar Arabian World Cup with a prize pool of EUR 1,000,000 held on the L’Arc de Triomphe weekend at Longchamp in Paris, proved that in Poland it is possible to prepare the best Arabian horse in the world. It was the greatest advertisement that no one even dreamed of. The results of Fazza Al Khalediah, but also foreign starts of other horses of Polska AKF mean that not only the Saudis want to give the horses of their property for training in Poland. I see no threat in this, but an opportunity for development. Middle East owners should not only keep their horses in our country for training, but also keep their breeding mares and youngsters. They will also buy Polish bred horses, if they are appropriate quality. In addition, the most viable option to attract new sponsors for the races, and hence increasing the prize pool, is sponsorship from the Middle East. For them Arabian horses, also the racing ones, are part of their cultural heritage and therefore so they willingly engage in Arabian horse racing. We don’t have to look for a horse market for Polish breeding, look for sponsors, they are clearly interested in cooperating with Poland. We should take this opportunity! Let us not be fooled by the vision of increasing the prize pool from an increased turnover in the mutual bets. The potential that we dream about is not there. Today, we can only achieve a larger prize pool in Arabian horse races thanks to sponsorship from the Middle East.
How do you evaluate this year’s sponsorship offensive of Polska AKF?
Maciej Kacprzyk: I can only applaud it, which proves what I said before. Poland AKF has allocated over 400,000 PLN for basic and additional prizes in Służewiec, Wrocław and Sopot. In addition to the Al Khalediah Poland Cup race held since 2014, it fully sponsors the new Tiwaiq Central European Arabian Derby, which took place on May 29, a series of four races for horses of the third group of Al Khalediah Racing Festival and the Białka Stakes. I think that the most interesting novelty is the race for 4-year-old horses, i.e. the open Arabian Derby. Its distance, date, and I hope that its soon international character is a step into the future. I believe that we will soon have a Polish-bred Arabian who will win the Tiwaiq Derby in May, and then in June will win the French Derby for Arabians. Perhaps this will be the success of Dary Al Khalediah, the winner of the first edition of this race, who was born in France, but is after all the grandson of Savvannah, born in Janów Podlaski, descending from the wonderful line of Sabellina.
What is the current “Arabian” potential in your stable?
Maciej Kacprzyk: I have about 20 Arabians in my training. I’m saying “about”, because this number is constantly changing. Injured and weaker horses leave, and new ones come in their place. I have a limited number of stalls and the stables are practically full all the time. The star of recent seasons, Shadwan Al Khalediah, has already finished his racing career and started breeding duties. In training I have 6 AKF Polska horses, 10 horses owned by Qatar, one from Kuwait and one from the United Arab Emirates, and two horses owned by Polish owners. The best of the older horses, Salam Al Khalediah, suffered a minor injury, but must have a break in training. He is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a center in Belgium, he will not start until the second half of the season. Amwaj Al Khalediah presented herself very well in the Comet St., so as a prize in the second half of June, she will compete in the G2 race in Milan. I am also counting on Wasma Al Khalediah, who won the Skowronek St. in beautiful style. I also hope that four-year-old Nrgizing will quickly advance to A and B categories, after easily winning his debut. These are the promising horses I am counting on this season.
For polskiearaby.com – Jan Zabieglik