“Do you want to interview Sheikh Mohammed?” demanded a harassed-looking woman, pausing at the end of my desk in the Kentucky Horse Park’s giant media centre.
Well, it wasn’t part of my plan for the first day at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but I guess if there’s an opportunity to shake the hand of the ruler of Dubai — and competitor in tomorrow’s endurance event — and take down a few of his thoughts, you shouldn’t pass it up. Moments later I was sitting alongside Irish journalist Louise Parkes in a buggy driving off to meet him.
Sheikh Mohammed said that he loves it here in Kentucky — obviously his racing connections mean he is very familiar with this homeland of thoroughbred racing, he has friends here and has been coming here for a long time. And asked about the Arab nations’ interest in endurance, he spoke of the connection the Arabs have with the Arab horse.
I reckon everyone here in Kentucky feels a connection with horses, one way or another. And as my colleague Sarah Jenkins said earlier today, this is mecca if you love horses.
There’s a frission every time you step out of the press tent (sorry, the media village). Who or what might you come across this time?
Taking a stroll with Trevor Meeks, H&H’s photographer, earlier, we saw Brit Nick Turner, chef d’equipe to the Brazilian eventing team, helping that nation’s Serguei Fofanoff work his grey horse, Ekus TW.
Next time out, I saw German eventing team trainer Hans Melzer, riding a bicycle (right). And seconds later I had the opportunity to chat with Des Payton, team manager to the British endurance team, and ask him more about Sarah Rogerson, who has just come off the reserve bench into the squad.
Although Sarah is based largely in Britain, her horse FFC First Csea Lord comes from North Caroline, some six hours from Kentucky. Handy. His owners, Cheryl and Stagg Newman, drove him down last night, arriving about 8.30pm, and having been clipped and shod this morning, he’s good to go.
Weather may be a factor in tomorrow’s endurance competition. Having been very humid earlier in the week, there was rain last night — good news for the ground, which is rumoured to be hard on the endurance course — and today it’s like a hot English summer’s day here, more pleasant than the sticky overcast conditions that greeted us on arrival yesterday.
Must go — there’s about to be a press briefing, after which apparently tickets to tonight’s opening ceremony may be given out. I wouldn’t want to miss that.