OUR visit to Turkey last week for Musir’s run in the Topkapi Trophy turned out to be an even more fascinating experience than we’d imagined it would be.
Jehan Malherbe and I flew into Istanbul, a city inhabited by 19 million and truly unlike anything we’d seen before. When I say there is a sea of people here, I mean it. We sat at our hotel room window watching the city traffic peak at around lunchtime, when it also seemed as if all those millions had found found their way onto the streets. There was a literal massive wave of faces streaming down Istanbul’s shopping avenues, nothing short of astounding to witness!
There wouldn’t be any worries about getting lost, though, because we were well attended to and enjoyed the kind of reception one would expect in any of the bigger, long established international racing centres.
We met some racing fans who own a gift shop next to our hotel. Here they are, proud as punch, with Musir’s trophy after the race.
We visited a Turkish Totalisator betting outlet and met with a group of Turkish racing fanatics, all most appreciative of international visitors and delighted to hear that we fancied Musir to go close in the big race. The punters’ biggest gripe is that the Tote takeout is far too big and that it’s never easy to make a decent profit. But in their growing industry this hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm. After our visit, word of our confidence spread quickly and Musir attracted a heap of money to start 1-3 favourite at the off! They didn’t get rich, but it was heartwarming to see the joy of winning punters!
There were many delighted faces when Christophe Soumillon brought Musir home to an easy win and we felt like hero’s after the race with congratulatory applause and cheers coming from everywhere. We made many friends among this cheerful crowd, who are very keen to improve their thoroughbred pedigrees, which in time to come will open up a new market for South African bloodstock. We were introduced to some Moroccan racing personalities too, another emerging market with potential for South African involvement.
As things stand now, however, there is no protocol for exports to these countries and it will be well worth while for our authorities to start removing the obstacles at a time when, as we know, a few important others remain in our way!
As for our Turkish experience, many thanks to all involved. The Turkish officials went out of their way to make our visit as enjoyable as possible The race day facilities, training facilities and the quarantine area was very good, in no way behind the rest of the world, and the racecourse had an excellent grass track and a polytrack. Interesting too was that Phumelela have an official in charge of betting relations based here in Istanbul.
Having a training base in England makes it possible to pick the most suitable races for our horses at this time of year and this is a venture we would certainly approach again if we have the right horse, like Musir proved to be. The race stake of 500,000 Euro is nothing to be frowned at and we competed against horses of similarly good quality, including a contender from Godolphin.
My thanks go also to my team at Newmarket who assisted in Musir’s preparation, especially his companion Lisa Moncrieff, a valuable member of our stable. She has also worked with a number of our top runners in Dubai, including Imbongi. Best wishes also to Musir’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
Musir, back home at Newmarket after his Turkish trip, with Lisa Moncrieff.