It was a great honour to meet Nasser Al-Kaabi recently. Nasser is one of the leading horse racing influencers and media commentators in the middle east. Nasser is the CEO of the world-famous Qatar horse racing club (QREC) and he works closely with the Qatar government and royal family.
Having been interviewed by major publications like Forbes, CNN, and some of the leading middle east publications Nasser is one of the most connected people in Qatar.
Nasser Sherida Al Kaabi, General Manager of the Qatar Equestrian and Racing Club (QREC), discusses the country’s rising presence and high-ranking partnerships in the world of horseracing.
How would you evaluate the importance of sports in Qatar’s agenda and what are the benefits of sports mega events in terms of nation building, trust building, and integration?
Qatar now is playing a major role in sports all over the world, and I think Qatar has a major point in using sports as a player to develop the country’s image. We are hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and every year we have international tennis and golf tournaments, and the motorcycle GP – all of which proclaim Qatar as a leader in the region. The equestrian field also plays a big role as now we are home to one of the most prestigious and most attractive racetracks in the Gulf. We target in the future to put Qatar on the map, hosting the most prestigious and exciting races in the world. Our interest in sponsoring a plethora of races abroad sends a message about our commitment to horseracing.
Horseracing for us is something we associate to our heritage this has been a historical event for more than 200 years; horses and racing are known to be every Qatari’s passion.
QREC supports and sponsors several Arabian races internationally, such as the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and is able to attract numerous high profile international partners, including Longines, ExxonMobil and Total, among others. What drives these companies to be associated with the club and become proud sponsors worldwide?
ExxonMobil, Shell and Longines are some of our proud sponsors; in fact, Longines is one of our major sponsors all around the world. So, being associated with them is beneficial for both of us. Secondly, Qatar is one of the major petroleum states, and oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil have a major role to play. I think it’s very important to have joint ventures, not only in the oil and gas industry but also in the sports arena. We are partners in a lot of events. I think being associated with Qatar is something every company wants because Qatar is showing its desire to grow and become one of the major powers in the region.
You just came back from Royal Ascot, what was the experience this year?
As you know, last year we had HE Sheikh Joaan as the leading owner-winner. I think Qatar is paying attention to be at the top level in all sports. Winning at Royal Ascot is an experience that cannot be matched by anything else. For us, as we see it, we are the newcomers in Britain and France, especially in horseracing. I think it sends a big message that we want to be there and we want to prove to the world that we can be the best.
What is your vision for horseracing in Qatar in the long term?
Our strategy and plan for our image now is to turn Qatar into a major horseracing global phenomenon. So, for example, right now the major race events in the world are the Kentucky Derby, the Dubai World Cup, and events in Australia, France, etc. We want to be there with them; they have been around for many years and they have the heritage and the historical experience.
But, we will do something astonishing, to show people that we can take the sport to the next level, attracting a lot of people from all around the world, especially through our race events. We are going to elevate our prize money to make it more attractive for enthusiasts, as well as upping the level of horses participating to be equal to or exceed those who participate in major events around the world. Being associated with the best jockeys like Frankie Dettori sends the message that we only look for the best. We have good horses; we have the best fields in the world, and we have the best jockey, who is Frankie Dettori.
Horseracing, as you know, has a need to win. For us, as Qataris, winning the first Arc was an unbeatable feeling. And winning it a second time was a dream come true. We are going for more now. We want to make history. It’s never been done before; we are tied with another horse, I think it was in 1978 or 79, but now we want to make history, to make Qatar one of the most successful nations in the history of horseracing.
What role do you see for yourself in the short-term?
First of all, it’s an honor to be here, especially when the government has put trust in me to lead this horseracing organization and put it in the 2030 image. Personally, my intention is to make Qatar one of the major players in horseracing in the world. I have been to all the races. I have experienced other cultures and learned other traditions during my life. I have a good background with all the other race organizations and I think I want to put everything I know about horseracing within the Qatari image, to make Qatar one of the world leaders in this field.
I think this can be done with ambition. It needs time, because we need to build our horseracing infrastructure, but eventually we will reach our goals and targets. And it needs goodwill and ambition.
I have the intention with all the help of our team and Qatari nationals and also the people that come from outside to help us; I think this will play a major role. We also have a lot of joint ventures, a lot of major horseracing. We have a partnership with the Jockey Club, and with the Racing Post, and they are experts in the field; I think that will put us on the right track.
When you travel abroad to these different races, do you feel that Qatar is being given the credit it deserves? Do you think there’s still work to be done in the international arena to put Qatar on the map?
There are still some little issues that have to be resolved to put us on the right track. Especially internationally, we have to raise the level of races held on the racetrack. But outside of Qatar, we have already put our trademark out there and we have a very good record in the racing field. I think a lot of Qataris now are involved in racing abroad and they want to prove to everybody that we can compete.
[When it comes to bidding on horses] it’s a matter of quality. Quality has a price, and I think when we enter the field we search for the best and for quality. I think that we have proved that we are good quality because many other racers have wanted to bid on the same horses that we have wanted. We are building sturdy foundations. I think in the beginning we have to invest and show our ability, and after that we hope we’ll gain through our results.
For us, horseracing is a sport in which we want results. We are not looking for investment as a return; we are looking for investment for results, such as making the owners happy with the results, and also attracting the big racing organizations to come and join us in our events.
That fits perfectly into something that His Excellency Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser Al Ali was saying recently, about how sports have this beautiful ability to unite, not only regionally but internationally. How would you say that equestrianism is playing a part in this sportsmanship?
His Excellency Mr Salah Bin Ghanem Bin Nasser Al Ali, the Minister of Youth and Sports, is playing a major role uniting the sports sector and putting Qatar’s vision from the governmental perspectives into the right direction to meet the goals and objectives of Qatar 2030. Sport does unite heads of state, not only big owners. So I think being in horseracing or any other sport is somewhere everybody wants to be.