Racing at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on Sunday was highlighted by the only thoroughbred contest, a 1600m handicap, won stylishly by Galesburg under confident piloting by Richard Mullen for his main employer, trainer Satish Seemar.
With Sahaafy setting a frantic early gallop under Jesus Rosales, Mullen had his mount positioned to the fore of the main body of runners and they made relentless progress throughout the straight. Sahaafy was visibly tiring at the 200m pole and Mullen’s mount swooped, hitting the front inside the final 100m and skipping clear on what was a first UAE turf outing. Second three times and third once on four previous outings this season, all at Jebel Ali, he was registering a first local victory to add to three turf wins when trained in England by Mark Johnston.
“He is an ultra-consistent horse who seldom runs a bad race and we have been looking for a turf opportunity with him so this race was ideal,” Mullen said. “We really thought he had a big chance and he has not disappointed. The horse deserved to get his head in front after so many good efforts in defeat.”
The 1600m maiden split into two races and the second division went to Goshawke, having just his fourth start for Abdallah Al Hammadi and sporting the lime green silks of his main patron, Al Ajban Stables. Having shown promise on his first two starts, both at Abu Dhabi, he disappointed on dirt at Al Ain, but was always going well here settled in midfield on the rail by Fernando Jara before closing on the principals on the home turn. When the leader debutant JAP Al Aghar went wide, Jara took full advantage driving his mount to the front and they never looked like being headed, despite a late challenge from AF Al Bairaq.
“When we hit the front I thought we might win easily, but he has shown his inexperience and almost waited for the others,” Jara said. “It was only his fourth start and it would be nice to think he is going to improve with racing.”
Connections were soon back in the winner’s enclosure with Jara, other than challenging a bit wider and not on the rail, producing a virtual carbon copy effort aboard Bushrah Al Reef in a 1600m handicap. Again the jockey was happy to take his time in behind the leaders before closing to challenge early in the straight. They hit the front about 300m out and were never going to be caught with the mare posting a third career win, all at Abu Dhabi and second at this 1600m trip.
Al Hammadi said: “The horses are running well and we thought these two had good chances so it is obviously nice to see them win and Fernando has ridden both very well.”
Trainer and owner completed a treble, courtesy of AL Tiryaq who quickened nicely under Sam Hitchcott to land the finale, a 2200m handicap. Only seven went to post and, after a tardy start Hitchcott restrained his mount who was keen to get on with things in rear. The race was run at a modest tempo and with 600m to run all seven looked to hold a chance but, Hitchcott always looked happy. He eased his mount closer leaving the home turn, before asking him to win his race 200m out. The response was taking and victory fairly comfortable. It was a fourth career win for the horse, all at Abu Dhabi, and third this season after victories over 1400m and 1600m late last year.
“He is a nice little horse and has plenty of ability for this kind of grade,” Hitchcott said. “My hardest job this evening was getting him to settle, but once he relaxed, I was always fairly confident. The one thing I know he can do is accelerate, so off that slow pace I knew he would quicken when I wanted. He is pretty versatile regarding trip, but does have that turn of foot which is so important in these races.”
The opening 1400m handicap was won in style by the seemingly fast-improving AF Sanad, who was completing a hat-trick for his owner and trainer, Khalifa Al Neyadi, making it four wins from seven starts all this season. A 1600m maiden winner on the dirt at Al Ain in December, he also won over 1000m at the same venue before winning a handicap over the same course and distance as this success three weeks ago. Yet to finish out of the first three, he has now actually won for four different jockeys, with Bernardo Pinheiro, riding his first UAE winner, following Tadhg O’Shea, Anas Al Siyabi and Royston Ffrench in steering him to victory.
Pinheiro said: “Obviously I am delighted to get my first winner and am very grateful to connections for this opportunity.”
Nearer last than first throughout the first two thirds of a 1200m handicap aboard Madjanthis, apprentice Saif Al Balushi did not panic and unleashed his mount with a withering late challenge to lead close home and deny Harry Bentley aboard Es Fatek. Trained by Ernst Oertel, Madjanthis was recording a sixth career win.
That is actually two more than his young jockey- Al Balushi who explained: “Thanks to the support of Sheikh Mansoor and his festival I spent six months in Newmarket at the apprentice school and learned a lot. This is my third winner this season, on just my eighth ride so I have to be very happy with that. Hopefully there will be more to follow.”
The Al Asayl team rarely leave Abu Dhabi empty-handed and their Elyaah made it third-time lucky with a smooth victory in the first division of the 1600m maiden. Trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he was settled in the middle of the pack by Tadgh O’Shea before they made smooth progress leaving the back straight and were poised behind the leaders leaving the home turn. Once asked for an effort, he responded stylishly hitting the front 300m out and running on strongly.
“This horse is still mentally very immature and when I first asked him to quicken he actually tried to bite the one on his inside, just playing, rather than concentrating on the job,” O’Shea said. “This was the first time he has not made a mess of the start and was able to get involved a race. I think he will be better over further and we would like to think he is improving.”