By Evie Sweeney
The $100,000 UAE President Cup (G1) is America’s richest Arabian race of the year, and shares the world stage with the Preakness Stakes, held at historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Pimlico’s grandstand was full, and on this day, the spectators would see the finest in Thoroughbred racing, as well as the original racehorse.
On May 21, 2022, eight purebred Arabians – including multiple Darley Award champions and graded stakes winners – entered the starting gate. “We were so excited to be back at Pimlico for a full crowd after two years of minimal spectators due to Covid,” said Susan Meyer, Arabian Jockey Club president and breeder/owner of Hiab Al Zaman (with her husband, Jim). “It was a hot, humid day, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or the performance of the horses. It was a thrill to see our own horse, Hiab Al Zaman (Hilal Al Zaman x My Shelby Cobra), win this most prestigious Grade 1 race in great form.”
At just five years of age the handsome, charismatic chestnut stallion, was the 8-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile event. Hiab broke clear under talented jockey, Carol Cedeno, setting the pace around the first turn, and remained the front runner. Uptown Lady Arabella hung close until fading at the half-mile pole, while Quick Sand AA made a late rally. However, none could catch the copper stallion who won easily under a hand ride to win by 9 ¾ lengths. The win brought his lifetime record to 10(5-0-2)3-0 with earnings of $113,473.
It’s hard to believe that the 16.1hh stallion almost didn’t survive as a foal. Shortly after his birth, Hiab fractured his sinus cavity and sustained a concussion. Susan and Jim, an equine veterinarian, were able to treat him within an hour. Sue, Jim and a small army of helpers stayed by the colt’s side for over six weeks. Walking to the left caused Hiab to flip over backwards and seize. So, the determined little colt walked to the right…around and around incessantly.
“We had to milk the mare, then squirt it into his mouth with a syringe,” Sue recalled. “We did this around the clock, often while he walked in his right-hand circles. Eventually, as the brain swelling decreased, Hiab was able to nurse on his own by propping himself up on his mother while he nursed. At some point, when he was ready to go outside, I brought my lawn chair out to the middle of his paddock so that when Hiab would flip over and have a seizure, I could help him up.
“We assumed he’d never be fully functional and would probably end up as our pasture ornament,” said Sue. “But we never gave up, and neither did he.”
Around the sixth week, Hiab Al Zaman had nearly fully recovered. He continued to grow and develop in the grassy paddocks of Meyercrest Arabians in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the end of his three-year-old year, he shipped to Cristian and Jeremias’ Castro Racing Stables. The first big race of his career was the 2021 $100,000 UAE President Cup (G1) on Preakness Day.
“We knew we needed at last one prep race under him before that big race, so we sent him to Texas,” says Sue. “On the 28-hour cross-country haul, the team drove through horrific storms. Hiab got sick after his arrival. In the two weeks leading up to the prep race, Hiab had largely recovered, and even though he was not a hundred percent, he finished third. His jockey told Sue and Jim, “This horse ran this race on talent and heart alone. He would not give up. He’s special.”
Hiab continued to the 2021 UAE President Cup (G1), where even after a bad stumble out of the gate, in his second lifetime start, he came in fifth out of twelve of the nation’s best. As his campaign continued in Texas, Hiab Al Zaman began to rack up the wins. At the end of 2021, Hiab Al Zaman’s record was 9(4-0-2)2-0 with earnings of $55,193 – and the titles of Darley Champion Four Year Old Colt and Darley Horse of the Year.
Like all great horses, Hiab Al Zaman is not only here to display his authority on the racetrack, but to remind us that that winning requires a fighting spirit, and that greatness is within our reach if we have the courage and heart – attributes that Sue and Jim saw in him during his first month of life.
Like all great horses, Hiab Al Zaman is not only here to display his authority on the racetrack, but to remind us that that winning requires a fighting spirit, and that greatness is within our reach if we have the courage and heart – attributes that Sue and Jim saw in him during his first month of life.