“END OF AN ERA” FOR ARABIAN RACING AT DELAWARE
Calling it the “end of an era,” the Eastern Arabian Racing Alliance (EARA) announced July 2 its 2021 meet at Delaware Park was over. That also means the cancellation of three graded stakes for Arabians the track had carded for August and September: the Grade 3 Delaware Park Arabian Juvenile Championship, Grade 1 Buzz Brauninger Arabian Distaff Handicap, and Grade 1 Delaware Park Arabian Classic.
“We are very disappointed, and it is a very troubling sign for the future of Arabian racing,” the group said in a statement signed by board members Howell Wallace and Alan Kirshner and breed rep Amanda Roxborough.
Arabian racing has been part of the scene at Delaware Park since 1984. Just a few years ago, most Delaware cards concluded with an Arabian race.
In the last couple of years, though, it has become tougher to fill the Arabian events. By early July, Delaware had carded just a single Arabian race, and sources told The Racing Biz that fewer than 20 Arabians were on the grounds.
“Delaware Park provided a fantastic opportunity for Arabian horses at their summer meet, offering the most races weekly and two Grade 1 Stakes races for older horses, yet it failed to get the support of many owners and trainers,” the EARA said.
John Mooney, Delaware Park’s executive director of racing, said the problem is even more fundamental than that.
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“The major problem with Arabian racing at this time is there’s a shortage of owners who are involved in the racing end of the industry,” he said on Off to the Races Radio July 3. “As a result of that, there was a shortage of horses. It’s unfortunate.”
The season had begun with hope in the Arabian community. The EARA appointed Roxborough as breed rep with the idea that she could assist horsemen with their needs and work with the racing office to craft an attractive racing schedule.
As the opening day of May 26 approached, the group was trumpeting the five Arabian races in the book for the first week. However, only one race actually filled during the meet, an allowance/optional claiming event June 5 in which the nine runners were sent out by just four trainers and horses trained by Lynn Ashby finished first, second, and third.
Outside of Delaware, Arabian racing also takes place in California, Colorado, and Texas, according to the Arabian Jockey Club’s website.
While the EARA statement suggests that this will mean the end of Arabian racing at Delaware Park not just this year but in the future, it does not explicitly say that. But Mooney, for one, thinks it unlikely that Arabians will race there again.
“I don’t see how they can bring it back,” he said. “To bring it back, they’re going to have to find a lot of owners that are interested in racing Arabians, and it appears to me that most of the people who are left in that breed are there to show Arabians or do endurance contests.”
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If this is, indeed, the end of Arabian racing at Delaware Park, the record will show that Uptown Lady Arabella won the final Arabian event at the track. The filly was ridden by Keiber Coa for trainer Lynn Ashby and owner Jon Hennigsgard.
“Many champions were established at the east coast oval. Delaware winners have stamped their careers in racing, and many Darley Award winners are the legacy of USA breeding,” the EARA said.
“Since the Arabian breed is welcomed at so few recognized tracks in the U.S., losing Delaware Park will be felt by all.”