Zoaby stuns opposition, wins twice at Gilboa

Young Israeli jockey Hamudi Zoaby stole the show at the annual Gilboa festival on Tuesday, winning the second and third high level races of his career. The 21-year-old overshadowed favorites Doron Ben-Menashe and Saleem El-Oqbi who had come into the competition at the Gilboa Hippodrome expecting to make a significant impact. On a blindingly hot day, 2,000 spectators, well below what race officials had hoped for, watched Zoaby impress in the 1,000 and 1,400 meter Arabian horse races "I thought I would win, I didn't sleep last night," Zoaby said after his victories. Another big winner of the day was Ofir Ben-David, one of the senior jockeys, who won the final two races of the day. "He is certainly one of the three or four best jockeys in Israel," Paul Alster, Director of Public Relations for the Israeli Jockey Club said of Ben-David. The battle between Ben-Menashe 42 and Salem El-Oqbi, was a memorable one. Both riders, who are in their early 40's, won one race each when facing each other, continuing a rivalry that has been going on for 20 years. Ben-Menashe won the fourth race of the day, a 1,400 meter Arabian, while Saleem took the fifth, a 1,000 meter handicap thoroughbred race. The day was not without controversy however. The night before the race, animal rights protesters had thrown more than 1,000 nails onto the track, in an attempt to endanger the race. "It's disgraceful and criminal, to do this and then show up at the gate," Alster said, referring to the contingent of 15 protesters that were standing at the entrance. "We want people to know that if there is going to be a Hippodrome in Israel, there is going to be a slaughterhouse," Omer Ginsburg, 24, spokesperson for the animal rights group Hakol Chai said. The organization claimed to have a members of the Knesset on its side, including MK Michael Melchior. They also denied responsibility for the dumping of nails on the track. The final race also saw a near tragedy, when Vanessa Allouche, 27, was thrown off her horse after the race and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Alster said that she would be unlikely to suffer any permanent injuries. Before the incident Allouche talked about her experiences as a female racer in a male-dominated sport. "It's hard to get started, because you are a girl, but once you prove yourself, then it's no problem," Allouche said. The Gilboa Festival was the latest in a series of race events, with the next races scheduled for May 16, June 6 and July 4, all at Pardes Hanna.