Racing in the capital on Sunday was highlighted by the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup, one of three Prestige races over 1600m on the card and won, in a thriller, by AL Tiryaq. Only five may have gone to post, but all the quintet was virtually in a line at about the 250m pole with last year’s winner, Hamza, trying valiantly to hold on along the rail. AF Sanad had thrown down the first challenge early in the straight, soon followed by AF Yatroq and it was that pair Hamza saw off first.
However, at about the same time, AF AL Hazer and AL Tiryaq joined in with the former, on his first start since Dubai World Cup night and the Kahayla Classic, briefly looking the main danger. Inside the final 100m, he faltered and dropped to third, but Sam Hitchcott and AL Tiryaq quickened in the final stages to win going away at the line.
It was a fourth win this season for the five-year-old, trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables. Hitchcott said: “He is a smashing little horse and very versatile; he won over 1400m in November and 2200m two weeks ago. He has a turn of foot which is a great asset in these races, as well as a desire to win, which makes my job easier. It is a big result for the trainer, his team and everybody involved with the horse.”
Also Prestige races and over 1600m are the Emirates Colts Classic and Emirates Fillies Classic, restricted to four-year-olds and the main support races on the card. Omani raider Ghazayel has now raced in Abu Dhabi twice and is a dual Classic winner, after adding the 1600m Emirates Fillies Classic to the 1400m Abu Dhabi Fillies Classic she won, on her turf debut in December. Also a winner three times in Muscat, where the race on dirt and over trips ranging from 1200m to 1800m, she is clearly both versatile and talented.
For trainer Younis Al Kalbani, it is two UAE winners from as many starters and for apprentice jockey, Saif Al Balushi, a fifth and fourth this season. Settled on the rail, in midfield, Ghazayel was switched around rivals 700m out before easing to the lead entering the relatively short straight. It was soon apparent the race was won and she came home unextended.
The jockey, who rode the winner for his cousin, Sheikh Mohd Shibab Hamed Al Balushi, said: “She is a very smart filly and showed in December she handles turf as well as she does the dirt at home. I was always happy and she has won very nicely in what is another great win for Oman.”
Thirty minutes later, the Emirates Colts Classic, with a field of eight, was run at a very modest tempo before the race began in earnest about 600m out, by which time four of the octet were out of contention. MH Rahal, winner of the 1400m Abu Dhabi Classic for Elise Jeanne, tried to make all under Connor Beasley and saw off challenges from first Mushairib and AF Motaghatres, second in that December race.
However, it was his stable companion, AF AL Bairaq, who threw down the gauntlet 200m out and Beasley’s mount, try as he might, was unable to withstand his final burst. Trained by Ernst Oertel for champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, the winner was losing his maiden tag at the fifth attempt and gaining revenge on the other pair, having been third to MH Rahal and AF Motaghatres in the Abu Dhabi Colts Classic and then second to his stable companion in a 1400m maiden, on his penultimate start, in December.
Silvestre De Sousa rode the winner and said: “I rode him when he was second two starts ago. That was over 1400m and he then ran well when second again, over this 1600m. He has travelled well, picked up nicely and finished strongly to win pretty easily in the end. He seems to be improving.”
Earlier the Al Asayl team of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trainer Eric Lemartinel had made the perfect start to proceedings when Tadhg O’Shea produced Bainoona with a telling late challenge to land the opening 1400m handicap, the 5-year-old mare registering her third career success in the process.
A winner here at Abu Dhabi over 1600m on her penultimate start, this was a first win at 1400m, at the fifth attempt. O’Shea said: “Both her previous wins were over 1600m so we were hoping they would go quick so she could utilise her stamina and they did which was a big help. She is tough and honest, which always makes my job easier, as well as versatile; she is decent on dirt as well so, hopefully, we have a few options with her.”
Connections wasted no time completing an early double with Meydan Du Paon, in similar fashion to Bainoona, held up before being delivered to land the following 1600m handicap. In his case, the 6-year-old gelding, doubling his career tally and recording a first turf victory, was nearer to last than first at halfway before making smooth progress throughout the duration of the straight. He hit the front 200m out to ultimately win comfortably.
O’Shea explained: “He has been running well this season and deserved to get his head back in front. From a bad draw, I was happy to take my time and he has enjoyed himself, weaving through horses and taken me there strongly before finishing it off well.”
The maximum allowed, a full field of 16, lined up in a 2200m handicap and three of them flashed across the winning line together with Mujahad Qardabiyah and MH Kanz both caught in the dying strides by LA Yfootkum. Apprentice Adam McLean was in the saddle, just as he had been when the horse won a course and distance maiden in January. Owned and trained by Saleha Al Ghurair, LA Yfootkum has provided both her winners this season.
The Thoroughbreds had to wait for last with their only race, a 2400m handicap, the final race of seven. It was a very rare visit for top rider Mickael Barzalona, who piloted his very first Abu Dhabi winner, Ply. Like his two winners the previous evening at Meydan, Ply is trained by Salem bin Ghadayer for Sheikh Handan bin Mohd Al Maktoum.