First Arabian race running at Churchill Downs [Sports]

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Race 6 at Churchill Downs today is the Grade 1 $50,000 The President of the United Arab Emirates Cup. The race is open to Arabian horses four years old and up. This is the first time Churchill Downs has held an Arabian race.

Although Arabian racing is unknown to most thoroughbred race fans, the thoroughbred owes its beginnings to the Arabian breed. The English breeders wanted to add speed and endurance to their horses, so they bred them to Arabians. The Darley Arabian was brought to England in 1704. This horse was the great-great grandsire of Eclipse, who was undefeated in 21 races. 90% of today's thoroughbreds can be traced back to this male line.

The first Arabian race ran in the U.S. occurred in 1959 at Laurel Race Course in Maryland. Last October, Keeneland held its first Arabian race in which Grilla won the race. Grilla is the favorite in today's race at Churchill Downs.

If thoroughbreds are a mix of Arabians, does that mean you should handicap an Arabian race the same as you would a thoroughbred race? The answer is yes and no. Arabians generally run much slower than thoroughbreds. On average, Arabians will run a mile about 10 seconds slower than a thoroughbred. Other than that, use your usual handicapping standbys like jockey, wins, post position, silks, etc.

In today's Arabian race, the favorite is the 8-5 Grilla. Grilla has won seven of 13 lifetime starts. His last win was the Grade 3 Arabian Cup. With so little known about the horses, expect him to be an even shorter price come post-time.

Another runner to consider in this race is T M Fred Texas, who finished second to Grilla in the Arabian Cup. The colt has two wins from three attempts so far this year. He has been installed as the 4-1 second choice.

Two horses I find interesting in this mix are 5-1 Dixies Valentine and 10-1 Ovour the Top. Dixies Valentine finished second in her last race after being off for nearly two years. Although that was an allowance race, she had previously run in stakes races and was undefeated in 2009. Churchill patrons may find her more appealing when they see Louisville favorite Calvin Borel take the mount.

Ovour the Top will be ridden by Corey Lanerie, Churchill's current meet leader. The colt has finished in the money in all of his five lifetime starts. He will run with blinkers off this time around, which can sometimes be viewed as an advantage.

The race will run at 3:23 this afternoon. Results will be posted shortly thereafter.

Photo: Courtesy Churchill Downs