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The Saudi Cup Festival
De Mieulle top of the class
Al Mneefah Cup -Listed PA - 2100m
US $1,000,000
First Classs and Ronan Thomas win the Al Mneefah Cup
©Debbie Burt
Ronan Thomas rode the perfect waiting race on First Classs (USA) to crown a superb evening for Qatari based trainer Alban de Mieulle, when winning the US $1,000,000 Al Mneefah Cup presented by the Ministry of Culture. De Mieulle had already trained the one-two in the International Handicap for thoroughbreds with Lauderdale and King Shalaa.

Thomas had plenty of racecourse experience on the improving five-year-old. The pair had won the Qatar International Derby for 4-year-olds in December and Thomas was sure his mount would be able to handle the step up in trip to 2100m. They travelled easily just off the pace throughout, making their move in the final stages to collar long-time leader Soko (FR), with Dergham Athbah staying on to deny Teema third place by a quarter of a length.

A winner of a Grade 3 at Lone Star Park in his native America for his breeders Alan Kirshner and Deb Mihalof of Cre Run Farm, at three years, he arrived in Qatar for his new owner, Nayef Saad bin Sharida Al Kaabi in December 2020. Once there it took a while for him to find his feet, but his trainer is a master at allowing a horse time to develop and realise his potential.

First Classs is a son of one of the most versatile Arabian racehorses and sires, Dahess who was also trained by De Mieulle to win six Group 1PA races. A product on one fo the greatest sires of all time, Amer, had later set the record for the highest price Arabian to be sold at the Arqana Purebred Arabian sale when sold for €1,050,000 in 2007.
Ronan Thomas celebrates on First Classs ©Debbie Burt
A delighted Thomas said: “I was really confident before the race because I know my horse properly, he made a perfect race when he won the Derby in Qatar. It’s a very high level of Arabian racing there, we beat Abbes who finished second to Lady Princess in the The HH The Amir Sword. 

“So, it was a tough race today, but I was really confident after the start that I had the perfect place and you can see I went to the front without using my whip. He’s a really nice horse.”

Of his second winner of the night De Mieulle commented: “He travelled very well. Soko, the favourite was in front with the Al Khalediah horse on the inside. We thought it would be run at a faster pace but no, not too fast, but he was travelling so easily behind and he was waiting, waiting and then came on the outside. I’m very pleased.”
Soko and Olivier Peslier © Debbie Burt
The Royal Cavalry of Oman’s Soko had run a brave race in defeat settled in second behind Tallab Al Khaleadiah, before going clear at the 400m mark. First Classs and Teema went after him and with the Qatari trained gelding travelling easily, Soko’s lead was short-lived as the grey pulled clear with 100m to go.

Soko was partnered by Olivier Peslier who said: "He’s a lovely horse and he travelled very well and fought very well. He was just lovely and always running well with good acceleration. He got beat near the finish and ran a great race. When the winner passed me, he went by really quick, so we were a good second. I’m very happy with him."
Dergham Athbah © Debbie Burt
Teema, making her first start since winning the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Juments in Paris in October kept on well, but was unable to repel Dergham Athbah. The five-year-old son of AF Albahar stayed on resolutely, as his former UK trainer Phil Collington had predicted he might.

He was ridden by Fernando Jara who commented: "We are really happy with him. Mohammed [Dagash] was really high on him. I got a clean trip. Coming to the stretch he responded very well. He’s OK on the dirt too but he’s better on the turf, I think. He showed a better turn of foot on it than in his last race. He’s really enjoying himself here, the way he was training and everything here. I think he is happy."

Also finishing in the money were Rysk Tout (5th) and Fettah Du Loup (6th).
Watch First Classs win the Al Mneefah Cup (LRPA)
The Arabian Racehorse -
Gulf Festival Special Edition

Produced in support of the HH The Amir Sword Festival and The Saudi Cup

Interviews with:

Mohammed & Abdulla bin Fahad Al Attiyah regarding their horses aimed at both meetings

ARO CEO Genny Haynes talks about the new era for UK Arabian racing

Equine MediRecord's CEO Pierce Dargan discusses how their system is helping horsemen compete globally

Trainer Phil Collington compares the different challenges of racing at both meetings
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