The Grand Prix du President de la Republique
The Grand Prix du President de la Republique, the most prestigious race in Tunisia, was won this year by Issarab (Kandar du Falgas x Rou’ya). Arabian racing in Tunisia has a long history and is the principle activity for its approximately 5,000 registered Arabians, according to their WAHO reports. Issarab, bred by Malek Stud and owned by Haras Othman Rajhi, represents a growing trend in Tunisian race breeding. His sire brings French racing bloodlines, while his dam is pure Tunisian stock. Issarab ran a strong race to earn his fourth win in five starts, trained by Zied Rajhi and ridden by Sylvain Ruis. “I bought Issarab as a two-year-old from Malek Stud as they are well known for producing top-class horses,” said Mr. Hamza Rajhi. “From his first days training, he showed great potential. Over time he has gained maturity and become the horse you see. This would never have been achieved without an amazing team behind me, so to them I say, ‘Thank you!’”
Close inspection of Issarab’s photo will show that Tunisian trainers hold their superstitions as close as American trainers do. Issarab’s blaze has been dyed orange with henna, for luck, calling to mind the many habits at American tracks such as when California Chrome’s blanket was misspelled at the Kentucky Derby where he won, so they ordered it misspelled for the Preakness and Belmont too. Issarab’s hind sock has been dyed as well, suggesting Tunisians might share the aversion to white leg markings held by American old-time horsemen.
In addition to the Arabians, Tunisia breeds Barb horses and native Mogod ponies. While racing is by far the largest equestrian enterprise with a reported 365 races per year, equine tourism is growing as Tunisia seeks to take advantage of its beautiful countryside. From the Mediterranean beaches to the Saharan sands, what better way to tour than on the back of an Arabian?