A Sad Day For Turkish Horse Racing

In Turkey, young men grow up with the knowledge that there are three things in life that they should hold dear, namely their women, their guns and their horses. With a colorful horse-related history going back more than a thousand years, Turkey and its people hold horses in high regard, especially racehorses. On the 29th of October 2008, hundreds of fans and horse racing enthusiasts gathered at the Veliefendi Racecourse to bid farewell to one of the greatest racehorses ever to come out of Turkey.

It is said that the magnificent dark bay, Byerley Turk, was one of three stallions that began the bloodstock for thoroughbred horse racing. He was taken by a military officer, Captain Byerley, from the Turks, who used him in the Battle of Buda and the Battle of Boyne, before taking him to Ireland in 1689 and then on to stand stud in England. The story goes to show that there have always been quality horses in Turkey, and even though the present horse racing industry in the country has its own financial battles to fight, when a horse like Ribella comes around, it makes everything worth it.

Ribella is owned by the Tasbek family and during her career as a racehorse; she has won an estimated $2 million in purse money for her owners, and has won 27 races out of sixty one career starts. Her successes have included the 2002 Grade 1 Mare’s Race, the 2005 Victorious Sultan Mehmet’s Cup, the 2005 Prime Minister’s Cup, the Zubeyde Hanim in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008 and she won the Anatolian Cup from the year 2004 to 2007. But her most memorable performance was during the 2005 Dubai International Racing Carnival, when she outran Moon Dazzle to win the 1600m Cape Verdi. She became the first horse from Turkey to have won in Dubai, and not only was pride and achievement felt by the Tasbeks’ owners but by the entire country.

Even though Ribella enjoyed huge success as a racehorse, it is her fiery spirit that everyone will miss. Known as a horse that would always give everything during a race, Ribella would not give up until she crossed the finish line. The Tasbeks tried to retire her in 2006, but her restlessness and spark, encouraged her owners to take her back to the racecourse. But now, as a nine year old, the Tasbeks have decided to call it a day, and retire her permanently from horse racing. She will be moved to the Ballysax Manor Stud Farm, where her owners hope she will produce a prodigy that can continue her legacy. The ceremony held in her honor, is testament to the love and respect that Ribella earned over the years, and to many fans in Turkey, her retirement is a very sad day in Turkish horse racing history.