Friday’s penultimate Al Ain fixture of the current campaign was highlighted by the Al Ain Mile and won in style by Cakouet De Bozouls, confidently ridden by Silvestre de Sousa for Ahmed Al Mehairbi.
Having just his sixth local outing, the horse carrying the colours of His Excellency Abdulla Bakheet Saif Murshed Al Marar, was winning for the first time since September 2016 and registering a maiden victory on dirt. However, his previous local efforts do include finishing third to Paddy’s Day in the 1600m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 and second to the same rival over 1400m in the Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah, both races staged on dirt at Meydan. Perhaps significantly, he was among the entries for Thursday’s 2000m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3, back at Meydan, but connections opted for this easier option with the Al Ain Mile only carrying Prestige status.
Stalking the pace, De Sousa nudged his mount to the lead at the top of the straight and they never looked in much danger of being caught. The Kahayla Classic, on the Dubai World Cup card, could well be the horse’s next outing.
De Sousa said: “I rode this horse at Meydan last time over 1400m when he ran very well and I knew this extra 200m would suit him.” The jockey added:“His 1600m form is very good so I was definitely hopeful he could win today. I think this is his best trip but, after that win, he should be invited for the Kahayla Classic and his stamina might last out.”
When Mushairib and Tadhg O’Shea cruised into contention 600m from home in the 2000m maiden they looked destined for a comfortable victory but AF Nafece, who had led from the outset, was reluctant to be passed. It was only about 300m out O’Shea managed to drive Mushairib, having his sixth career start but only second on dirt, to the front.
He was immediately then challenged, and passed, by Safin Al Reef, only for O’Shea to coax a final effort from his mount who regained the initiative close home.
O’Shea, riding his 459th UAE winner and thus moving into a clear second in the all-time table, said: “It is great to reach such a milestone and especially in these colours which have contributed a lot of those winners. We thought the longer trip would suit this horse today and it has, but credit the horse he has had to win two battles to get that first career success.”
Mushairib is trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and they completed a quick double with Bashayer in the following 1600m handicap. However, O’Shea was not aboard on this occasion and it was actually a belated first winner of the season for Jose Santiago. Settled in midfield, the seven-year-old mare cruised to the front halfway up the straight and then never looked like being denied her fourth career victory.
Lemartinel said: “She is a very honest mare who always tries and definitely prefers the dirt to turf. She ran well at Sharjah last week but all her wins have been here at Al Ain, three over this 1600m which really suits her.”
Santiago added: “I rode her at Sharjah last week when she ran very well and I was delighted to get the chance to keep the ride so I have to thank connections for that.”
A 1400m handicap was dominated by horses trained by Helal Al Alawi for Mohd Hareb Mohd Hareb Al Otaiba with the pair combining to supply both the winner, Kandoosh, and second, Gafel. Both stalked the early leader, Wafi W’Rsan until he weakened quickly 600m out from which point the Al Alawi pair had the race between them.
Pat Cosgrave and Gafel tried hard but from 250m out it was clear Kandoosh had matters under control with Harry Bentley performing the steering. Al Alawi, who trains in Al Ain but not on the racecourse, said: “We thought they would both run well in what looked a good opportunity and, luckily we were right. That is win number 27 for us this season and our best so far, bettering the 23 we enjoyed during the last campaign. That is our target, to progress numerically as well as in quality.”
He later made it 28 in the finale, a 1000m maiden which attracted the maximum field allowed of 15, but in reality only three ever really mattered. Well away, Raddad El Kheil led early on and was several lengths clear until challenged at halfway by AF Lewaa. He looked to have the race in safe keeping entering the final 200m, only for Pat Cosgrave to conjure a flying finish from Narjes, owned by Yas Horse Racing Management and completing a double for Al Alawi.
The sole Thoroughbred race, a 1000m handicap, was an absolute thriller with Paranormal and Royal History locked in battle throughout the final 300m, the lead seemingly changing hands constantly. On the line, where it really mattered, it was Royal History whose nose was in front, literally a flared nostril ahead of Paranormal in a photo finish which had opinion divided on track in the immediate aftermath.
The judge’s verdict went in favour of Royal History, a maiden UAE winner for jockey Elione Chaves, on his 17thmount, and first this season for trainer Ahmed Al Shamsi who trains him for his son, Salem Ahmed Rashed Abdulla Al Shamsi.
Chaves said: “The plan was simple; we had no weight, just 53kgs so basically we needed to jump quickly and either get to the lead or be just behind it. And that is what I was able to do but it was very close and at the line so I was delighted to hear we had won. The trainer continued: “I am here for the Dubai World Cup Carnival with some horses from Sweden but am pleased to get these opportunities to experience the other tracks here in the UAE. Obviously to ride a winner during my time here is great and I thank everyone for the opportunity.”
Quite slowly away in the opening 2000m handicap, Men Alemarat was soon tracking the leaders under apprentice Anas Al Siyabi and the pair were clearly travelling best of all when they hit the front 500m out. Al Siyabi found he had a willing partner who galloped on relentlessly, defeating his ten rivals fairly comfortably.
It was a third career win for the horse but first since October 2016 when he won at Sharjah, having registered a first victory in an Al Ain maiden over this 2000m course and distance in January that same year. He was then trained by Eric Lemartinel but is now in the care of Khalifa Al Neyadi who also owns him.
Al Siyabi said: “That was the first time I have ridden him in a race and he has quite impressed me; he carried me there going strongly and then ran on well.”