The Gilboa Festival is Ready for Action
On 11 October 2006, approximately ten thousand spectators gathered at the Gilboa Hippodrome in Israel to watch the first sanctioned horse racing event in their country. Unlike the thousands of punters and screaming enthusiasts that can be found at racing events such as the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the crowd at the Gilboa Hippodrome was more subdued and had an atmosphere of a family gathering. But it was still a memorable moment that has helped to pave the way for the 2008 Gilboa Festival that kicks off on Tuesday.
In anticipation of the Gilboa Festival, the IJC has increased its supervision of the training sessions at the racecourse to ensure that the horses are fit enough to take part in the upcoming racing events and to check that all jockeys and trainers are registered. They have also stepped up drug testing and have shown great commitment to the welfare of the jockeys and that of the racehorses in Israel. The IJC has also done a full inspection of the racecourse, as it is only in use about once or twice a year, to ensure that all the equipment and facilities are safe for the horses and for the jockeys. They have highlighted a few issues, such as the track surface, sidescreening, running rail and saddling boxes that need to be attended to before race day. Safety concerns have also been addressed in regard to the Arab show that will be held in conjunction with the seven races.
The prize money for the Gilboa Festival totals over NIS 40 000, and the two jockeys to look out for are favorites Sallem El-Oqbi and Doron Ben-Menashe. These two have a healthy rivalry between them that keeps the spectators on their toes. With these two jockeys facing off against each other in five of the seven racing events scheduled for the day, it is guaranteed to be a nail-biting festival. With magnificent racehorses and well-loved jockeys in attendance, it is hoped that horse racing will eventually become a recognized professional sport in Israel and that events, such as the Gilboa Festival, will give the government the encouragement to take a closer look at the sport.
But for now, organization for the festival continues feverishly, horses are training and the IJC is working tirelessly to make the necessary improvements to promote the sport of horse racing in Israel. And as long as there are racehorses, jockeys and enthusiastic spectators, the Jockey Club of Israel will continue to fight for recognition.