‘Flotilla’ was flying: Our horse at Meydan

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In the Godolphin Mile, Flotilla, no. 9, came from the back of the pack to finish a hard charging third, falling short only a length.  She has a white shadow roll and is ridden by French jockey, Christoph Lemaire who is wearing a blue jersey with white stars and a blue and white cap.

Thoroughbred horse racing has always been closely bound with the imagination.  Seabiscuit, a horse with humble roots who became a champion, represented hope to millions of racing fans suffering the economic hardships of the Great Depression.  In the 70s, the ill-fated filly Ruffian was a symbol to many who identified with the feminist movement.  She seemed to embody the idea that females could compete on an equal basis with their male counterparts.  Just this weekend, the three-year-old colt California Chrome reminded us that sometimes from humble beginnings great things come.

The four-year-filly, Flotilla, is such an iconic horse.  To me she represents the aspirations of the Palestinian solidarity movement and the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activism. They both are flying under the radar, have had some recent setbacks, but are poised for great success.

Flotilla is owned by Sheikh Mohammed al-Thani,  a member of the Qatari ruling family.  Just ten days before Flotilla’s stunning victory in the Breeders Cup, the then ruler of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, became the first head of state ever to visit Gaza.  Qatar, despite its cordial relationships with the United States, is a supporter of Hamas and plays host to Khalid Mashal, the exiled head of the Hamas political bureau.

It seems very likely that the filly was named after the flotilla movement, in which a series of boats, some successful, attempted to protest the siege on Gaza by challenging the Israeli naval blockade.  On May 31, 2010, the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara was part of one such attempt to enter Gaza by sea, but tragically the Israeli Navy boarded the ship in international waters and killed nine of the activists on board.  One of those killed was Furkan Dogan, an American citizen.

I first saw Flotilla in the 2012 Breeders Cup and cheered wildly as she unleashed a furious come from behind run to win the Juvenile Fillies race going away.  She rewarded her supporters handsomely at the betting windows and for the few of us who are bettors  and activists her victory was doubly sweet.

Horse racing, of course, is not all in the imagination and some of the realities do not always measure up to the pristine storyline the player may imagine for his champion steed.  The Khalifas, I imagine, are a far cry from what believers in liberal democracy would want in those who govern.  And the whole endeavor of racing horses, especially the use of illegal drugs, has generated much bad publicity for an industry which badly needs meaningful reform.

Still, horse racing, when the horses are treated with the respect these beautiful animals deserve, can be a thing of beauty.  And the pleasure they give us is immense.

Last year was not a good one for the filly Flotilla.  After a promising victory at Longchamp, she ran poorly in her only two other appearances at her home base in France.  This poor performance and few races is a sign that the horse had injuries that compromised her campaign.

But this season will be different.  The filly had shown signs of returning to her 2012 championship form in two prep races at Meydan racecourse in Dubai before she ran in the Godolphin Mile on March 29.  It was the day of the Dubai World Championship races, which are the richest races of the year anywhere, and is capped by a 5 million dollar turf race and the 10 million dollar dirt championship.  Some of the best race horses in the world ran that day.

Flotilla appeared in one of the earlier less prestigious races with a purse of only 2 million dollars!  The competition was stiff.   She was ignored by the bettors, going off at 9 to 1.

In the stretch she unleashed the kind of electrifying stretch run which won her a Breeders Cup Championship two years ago.  Just failing to win the race by one length, Flotilla gave knowledgeable racegoers a hint of her bright future by easily passing the two horses who beat her shortly after crossing the finish line.  Even the announcers took note of how full of run she was at the finish and how bright her future looks to be.

She finished only a length and a nose behind the winner.  That was a fantastic performance.  A indication that Mikel Delzangles [the trainer] and Christoph Lemaire can look forward to some pretty big races to be tackled in Europe this year.

Flotilla’s fantastic finish and post finish line run, plus  more of the announcer’s analysis of her performance.  The post race analysis starts at 5 min 50 sec.

Hopefully, Flotilla will be flying in some big races in the upcoming European racing season and maybe she will even return to the Breeders Cup Championships in the U.S. in the fall.

Flotilla is our horse and I predict she, like our movement, will win some startling victories in the not too distant future.

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People who Google “Flotilla” may learn a little something?

Yes, we can only hope with continued struggle and perseverance that Israel will become as progressive as Qatar and treat homosexuals, minorities and migrants as well as his honor does.

” To me she represents the aspirations of the Palestinian solidarity movement..”

To me she represents a lot of horseshit.

Ira– many thanks for this. An awesome and exciting exhibition of heart and come- from- behind grit and strength! Go Flotilla!


what a joke to be talking up the owners of Qatar to denigrate Israel. Normally its called scraping the bottom of the barrel. But I am certain the people here have a much different reality to base there bigotry upon. And I can just imagine what the animal rights activists would have to say about horse racing in general. And then imagine if the horse were israeli owned, everyone here would be clamouring for bds… Read more »