The penultimate meeting of the Jebel Ali season on Friday afternoon was highlighted by a handicap over 1800m for which only six went to post and the impressive Interconnection led throughout.
Sent straight to the head of affairs by Xavier Ziani, riding for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer, he seemed to have the race settled a long way out with his five rivals coming under increasing pressure throughout the long Jebel Ali straight.
Owned by Majed Ali Almarzooqui, Interconnection was winning for the second time this season on his seventh local start. His previous win, on his penultimate start over the same course and distance, was achieved in similar fashion under the now inured Royston Ffrench before seemingly finding the Jebel Ali Stakes a step beyond him a fortnight ago. That, however, could be a realistic target next year according to Xiani.
“He is a new horse for us this season and took a while to settle in,” he said.
“His first runs were not that good, but when we looked back at his UK form he seemed to run well in blinkers so we have put them on and it seems to have worked. With a summer in the UAE under his belt, hopefully, he is going to be a very nice horse next season; it is a shame this campaign is finishing because he is really coming to himself and thriving.”
The action kicked off with a lesser 1800m handicap won in gritty fashion by Aridity, a chance spare ride for Bernardo Pinheiro, who was a late replacement for Gerald Avranche. Trained by Rashed Bouresly, Aridity was winning for the first time in the UAE, at the ninth attempt and doubling his career tally in the process having also been victorious for Godolphin and Willie McCreery in May 2016 at Naas in Ireland. Never far off the pace, set by Pat Dobbs on Tradesman, Pinheiro drove his mount to the front 500m out and they never looked likely to be caught.
Tradesman plugged on gamely to hold onto second but Aridity was a relatively comfortable winner.
“This is first winner at Jebel Ali and third in my debut UAE season, so I am very happy,” Pinheiro said.
“As a jockey, this is a very competitive place to come, so I have to be pleased with that. The trainer and his staff told me this horse would run well and they were right, so I am very grateful for the opportunity. Jebel Ali is certainly very different to anything I have come cross at home in Brazil, where I am from, and this is an invaluable experience.”
Bouresly looked set to celebrate a quick double when Antonio Fresu sent his Call Sign to the front 400m from home in a 1400m handicap, but they proved powerless to fend off Epsilon who led close home. Reigning champion owner Khalid Khaifa Al Nabooda does not have many Thoroughbreds in training, but Epsilon, trained by Ernst Oertel, is one of them and was opening his local account at the 14th attempt, doubling his career haul in the process.
Ridden by South African apprentice Liam Tarentaal, who was registering a second winner of the young jockey’s first local campaign, Epsilon won quite comfortably in the end.
Tarentaal said: “I am really enjoying my Dubai experience, but will be off to China soon and then back to South Africa so it is great to get another winner on the board. These opportunities are so important for a young jockey, especially overseas, so I am very thankful to the connections for this chance.”
Probably last of the ten runners at halfway, having seemingly been hampered at the start, Above Normal finished fast in a 1400m handicap to snatch the spoils in the final 100m and win for trainer Satish Seemar and jockey Antonio Fresu.
Fresu said: “We had a bump coming out of the stalls which instantly put us out the back so I chose to stay in the middle of the track, out of any kickback. The trainer warned me he could be a lazy horse, so basically told me to never give up and that has proved to be correct.”
Jockey Richard Mullen and Lavaspin made it third time lucky in the horse’s fledgling career. Always prominent, he was ridden to lead about 300m from home and kept on strongly to deny Atta Alla who, when hitting the front shortly before under Jesus Rosales, had looked likely to complete a Bouresly double.
“We were certainly hopeful coming here today, especially back over 1200m as the 1400m last time probably taxed his stamina,” Mullen said. “He is a nice, young, horse who we hope can only improve as he gains more racecourse experience.”
The 14 runners in a 1200m handicap managed to split into three groups and it was those who stayed on the far side who dominated with Kowaiyess snaring Alraased, who tried to make all under Jim Crowley. Kowaiyess, a course and distance winner on his penultimate start a month ago for Helal Al Alawi and the Al Rahoomi Racing Syndicate, was ridden confidently again by Pat Cosgrave.
Al Alawi said: “We were very hopeful coming here today as we knew conditions suit him and he had continued in good form at home.
“Pat has given him a great ride in a race the runners were spread all over the track, so it is never easy to judge who is on top. Luckily Pat had it right and it was us!”