Racing at Al Ain Racecourse on Thursday is a seven-race card which begins with the sole Thoroughbred contest, a 1400m handicap, looking particularly competitive with the maximum allowed field of 15 declared and the weights headed by Good Contact.
Now trained by Saeed Al Shamsi, for whom he will be having just his second start, the 7-year-old gelded son of Teofilo was twice a winner for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor in Great Britain, most recently in September 2015, but has not won since. He arrived locally for the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival, finishing second on his UAE debut in a 2000m dirt handicap at Meydan. A repeat of that would make him very hard to beat here, but he has shown very little in six subsequent outings, so it may pay to look elsewhere for the most likely winner.
With the UAE campaign extended this season, owners and trainers have shown their support with healthy declarations throughout this weekend’s three meetings and Satish Seemar saddles three in this. Of the trio, stable jockey Richard Mullen has opted to partner First Down for Touch Gold Racing and victorious on his penultimate start, a 1400m Jebel Ali handicap. That was actually his second career victory having, as a juvenile, made a winning debut at Belmont Park when beating Godolphin’s subsequent Grade 1 winner Frosted.
Heading into a busy weekend, Mullen is six winners adrift of Tadhg O’Shea, also based with Seemar at Zabeel Stables, in the jockeys’ championship and the reigning champion jockey is aboard stablemate Heraldic, twice a 2200m dirt Meydan winner late last year. Second on his only previous visit to Al Ain over 1600m last November, that was the only previous occasion he has been ridden by O’Shea.
Doug Watson saddles four with the presence of Pat Dobbs aboard Guernsey suggesting he is the main hope from Red Stables and owner Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, whose colours will also be sported by stable companions Tobaco and Paranormal.
Watson’s fourth runner, Mutamakkin, the mount of Adrie de Vries, was third to First Down over 1400m at Jebel Ali on his latest start, seeming to relish reverting to a straight track. Having his first look at Al Ain, the long home straight may suit him and the 7-year-old War Front gelding should run well for EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club)
EERC spokesman Justin Byrne said: “He ran well last time at Jebel Ali, so is in good form and is a horse we have always had high hopes for. We are hoping Al Ain will suit him and this is a good opportunity to find out. There is another race for him next week after which he is entered in the ERA sale at Meydan.”
The best of the Purebred Arabian action would appear to be the concluding handicap over 1800m and as in all bar one of the seven races, another to attract a full field of 15.
For Champion Owner elect Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and his main trainer, Ernst Oertel, O’Shea rides AF Al Baher, who receives weight from his 14 rivals which include Maktoob, to be saddled by Eric Lemartinel for His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Pat Cosgrave in the saddle.
Regular visitors to Al Ain Racecourse should note that the first race is at 6:00 p.m., an hour later than the traditional 5:00 p.m. with an identical scenario for those attending Abu Dhabi on Saturday.