Sunday’s meeting on the Abu Dhabi turf was highlighted by HH The President Cup Prep, over the same 2200m course and distance as the Group One feature itself, which produced a shock result with Jaser, who had the second lowest official rating of the 14 runners, prevailing narrowly.
Owned by His Excellency Al Sheikh Nasser Mohd Nasser Al-Hashar, the 6-year-old is trained by Younis Al Kalbani, whose horses have been in great form and ridden by Szczepan who celebrated his biggest ever career winner ten days ago when partnering Wadeeaa to victory in the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 (PA Group 1) at Meydan.
Settled in midfield, he made smooth progress on the home turn before sweeping past early leader, Shaheer about 350m from home. They went clear, but Jaser, on his seasonal return, seemed to tire close home. He dug deep to deny the late challenges of Abu Alabyad and Ajjaj. A course and distance winner on his previous start in March, that his first UAE success to add to three victories in Poland, twice under Mazur when riding in his homeland in July 2016.
Mazur: “That was his seasonal debut because, with his rating of 82, he has been hard to place being too good for many races, but not good enough for the better ones so this was a good opportunity to actually race him for the first time since March. He travelled nicely throughout the race and took me to the front, but after his long break, has perhaps tired and had to fight hard close home. Luckily the winning post appeared in time!”
Owner Khalid Khaifa Al Nabooda, his main trainer, Ernst Oertel and retained jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, are enjoying a productive campaign and combined to land the opening 1400m handicap with AF Hakeem, winning for the fourth time, the second over course and distance. Having tracked stable companion AF Mathayel, like the winner homebred by Al Nabooda, throughout the early part of the race, they shot clear at the top of the straight and soon had the race in safe keeping.
O’Shea said: “He is a lovely horse, tough and genuine, though he only has one eye, so lacks a bit of confidence which is why we took him to the start early.
He was only narrowly denied last time when Sam Hitchcott rode him, so he deserved another win and has done that nicely in what was a competitive race.
The jockey added: “The team at home have done very well with him and we have worked out how to ride him to best affect, so hopefully, he can win again.”
The same team later combined to complete a double when Noof KB was victorious in a 1200m handicap restricted to horses in private ownership, maintaining an unbeaten record over course and distance having easily won a similar handicap in November.
A 6-year-old mare and one of the owner’s very few runners he has not bred himself, also has a 1600m Abu Dhabi maiden victory, in December 2017 to her credit and Al Nabooda said: “She is a nice mare and I will breed from her in time, but she is running very well at the moment as are most of my horses. I have a very good trainer in Ernst who has had the horses running well all last season and we all know Tadhg is champion jockey which was why I was keen to retain him.”
O’Shea added: “Mr Al Nabooda puts an awful lot into the sport, so deserves these victories and in Ernst, has a trainer with a very good record with the Purebred Arabians.”
The following 1600m maiden was won stylishly by Brraq, a 6-year-old having just his second career start after a fourth place finish on debut, over 1800m, on the dirt track at Al Ain where he is trained by Jean de Roualle for His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Settled in midfield by Richard Mullen, he made smooth progress before, on the rail, hitting the front halfway up the straight, winning easily.
De Roualle said: “We are really happy with that because this is a nice, young, horse having just his second start with a horse who has not been easy to train, so my staff deserve a lot of credit. He was always scared of other horses, but, after a lot of hard work, has gained in confidence, so this success is particularly rewarding.”
Mullen added: “All credit to Jean and his team because this horse has been a challenge, but hopefully, is going to be a smart one for them and His Highness.”
Trained by Eric Lemartinel for his main patron, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ras Asina was produced fast and late to lead close home by Pat Cosgrave to land the spoils in a 1600m rated conditions stakes.
Restricted to mares aged five or over and without three career victories to their name, the 5-year-old, on her ninth outing, was doubling her tally having previously scored, on debut, over 1400m at Abu Dhabi in November 2017. Settled in the middle of the nine runners, she was switched wide by Cosgrave early in the straight to produce her telling challenge down the centre of the track.
“She made it quite hard work, but came good in the end, when it mattered,” Cosgrave said. “I always thought I was going to win, but she has just made me work harder than I perhaps expected at one stage. Anyway, we managed to get there in the end and she is a decent enough mare in her grade.”
The only Thoroughbred race on the card, the concluding 1400m handicap, provided probably the easiest winner of the evening with Adrie de Vries seemingly sat motionless throughout aboard Legendary Lunch before leaving his 13 rivals toiling in the final 150m to win impressively on his second local outing.
A pleasing sixth, over 1200m on the Meydan dirt on his UAE bow a month ago, the 5-year-old entire by Dragon Pulse is now in the care of Fawzi Nass, but was a very good juvenile in England for Richard Hannon, winning the Listed Woodcote Stakes at the 2016 Epsom Derby meeting and finishing a close second in the Flying Childers Stakes (Group 2) at the Doncaster St Leger fixture.
After two fruitless starts as a sophomore in the UK, he won on his Bahrain debut in November 2017, but this was his first success since.
De Vries said: “He ran well on dirt last time, but I said to Fawzi he is really a turf horse, so this looked a good spot for him and I was never worried. If you look at his form, he has always been a good horse and he has won like one today which is great because it shows he retains a lot of ability and is a nice type for Fawzi and his team.”