Saturday, November 7, 2009

'Camel Jockey' Ahmed Ajtebi wins Breeders' Cup Race


Watching Ahmed Ajtebi ride the 'Vale of York' to victory at 30-1 odds a few moments ago, made it worthwhile for me to follow the Breeders' Cup races today. Ahmed Ajtebi is the first Arab jockey ever to win a Breeders' Cup Race. The horse was trained by Saeed bin Suroor and is owned by Godolphin Stables of the ruler of Dubai.

How I always have hated the ethnic slur of 'camel jockey' for more than one reason! For a start, I believe that the camel is one of the noblest, most beautiful and elegant creatures on this planet. Secondly, the art of riding, whether camels or horses, was perfected by the people of the Arab Nation and it is no accident that thoroughbreds are known as 'Arabian thoroughbreds' because of their original ancestors. Finally, Ahmed Ajtebi WAS a true camel jockey in his early youth and his experience with camels only enhanced his ultimate talent and ability on horseback.

From now on, perhaps Americans will have a healthier respect for 'camel jockeys' and it will be known as a title of honour rather than a perjorative ethnic slur.

The Breeders' Cup Races are publicised as 'international' in the number of horses they attract from other nations. I think it is an error on the part of the official announcer to refer to the winner of the Grey Goose race as a 'European', however. The world is not divided, even in horse-racing, between 'Europe' and the 'United States'. Dubai is not part of Europe. Rather than proclaiming 6 winners for the day so far by Europeans, he should have declared 5 European winners and 1 winner from the Arab Nation.

The official Godolphin website declares that: 'Godolphin is the Maktoum family's private horseracing stable and was named in honour of the Godolphin Arabian, who came from the desert to become one of the three founding stallions of the modern thoroughbred.

'His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s love of horses is renowned. Descended from one of the most notable tribes in Arabia, Bani Yas, horses have been part of his life since childhood. His Highness, born on 15 July 1949, is the third son of H.H. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

'Bedouin culture and traditions are central to his heritage. The desert is a challenging, often harsh, environment so the ability to live in harmony with nature is vital to the people of the region. As a boy, Sheikh Mohammed learned to read the desert sands, to identify a single camel’s footprint in a herd of hundreds and to understand the rhythm of nature so as to be at one with the creatures of the desert,'

How does this translate to 'European'? Give credit where credit is due. The Arab Nation won one today with an Arab jockey. Without subscribing to any view of the nobility of Dubai as representative of the Arab Nation as a whole, they nonetheless ARE Arab and the victory on the course today by Ahmed Ajtebi has to be recognised as significant. After all, an individual with enough money from any nation can buy a superb horse and enter it in a Stakes race, but it takes true talent and skill to ride the steed to victory.

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