By Jon Lees
GB: Trainer George Baker is to complement his UK training operation with a satellite stable in Bahrain where he has been tasked with helping to attract new owners to the sport in the kingdom.
Baker, 55, is a former City of London banker who took up training in 2008. He hopes to have the operation up and running at Sakhir in time for Bahrain’s 2021-22 racing season, which runs from October to April, while continuing to run his main yard in Surrey.
Baker explained: “We were approached by Sheikh Salman bin Rashed Al Khalifa, the executive director, in the summer because they are keen to raise the ownership base. They are keen to expand the profile of the sport and attract local Bahrainis and expatriates into racing and ownership.”
Bahrain, which has ambitions to establish itself as another of the sport’s global destinations, has attracted an international field for the £500,000 Bahrain International Trophy, which will be run for the second time this week.
“They have a fantastic racing surface at Sakhir, as evidenced by the entries for the International Trophy and the fact so many reputable stables have sent horses there,” said Baker. “For us it’s an opportunity to get a foothold in a jurisdiction that is very ambitious.
“It dovetails well with the core Flat season in Britain so we could have horses there and here.”
Baker went on: “We went out there and saw everything a couple of months ago and were very impressed by the commitment and ambition. They will provide us with an American barn and we plan to hit the ground running for the next season.
“We will probably be active at the July Sales and then preparing horses for next season, which will then be permanently in Bahrain. You can train imported, locally-bred and Arab horses, which are all catered for in the programme.
“We will have dedicated staff based there with myself and key members of the team heading over for important events when we need to be engaging with and entertaining the people who take up ownership. It’s another string to our bow, rather than a change of direction.”
• Visit the Bahrain Horse Racing Authority website