Racing at Abu Dhabi on Sunday was highlighted by a quality renewal of the 1200m Group 3 Al Ruwais and RB Money To Burn was able to defend her unbeaten record in a thrilling renewal of a race contested at a searing pace.
Sent straight to the front by Fabrice Veron, the 4-year-old filly, the youngest runner in the race and receiving weight from all her eight rivals, was harried throughout by ES Ajeeb, the pair stalked by Wadeeaa, winner of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 on her previous start.They swung slightly wide off the bend, taking ES Ajeeb with them and allowing Wadeeaa to draw virtually level on the inside, but once in the straight, the Eric Lemartinel trainee ran on strongly to deny Wadeeaa who was closing fast in the final100m.
However, Veron’s mount, owned by Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan, clung on grimly to add to her debut victory in a 1400m maiden on the Al Ain dirt and 1600m success in the Listed Abu Dhabi Championship six weeks ago.
Veron said: “She was very relaxed this evening and has shown a lot of natural speed to win again, but anything she achieves this season is a bonus because she is going to be a lovely filly for the next campaign. She has shown a very good attitude tonight because both ES Ajeeb and Wadeeaa are very good horses and threw down serious challenges, but she really stuck her neck out to hold on gamely.”
The main support race, the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup, a 1600m contest carrying Prestige status, was won in determined fashion by the gallant 9-year-old, AF Al Hazer, a third winner on the card, after four races, for the always feared Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, Ernst Oertel and Tadhg O’Shea combination.
Settled behind the early leader, Shaheer, they took up the running when that rival weakened 300m out and always looked likely to score and register a fifth victory for the horse on just his second outing of the campaign having failed to land a blow in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 a fortnight ago, his first start since finishing third in this race last year.
It was actually his first win since early January 2014 when, over the same 1600m, he landed the Listed Arabian Triple Crown R1, but he has run some fine races in defeat, including when third in the 2017 Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 on the dirt, a surface he has not won on, at Meydan.
O’Shea said: “It has been a great evening for us all and, as I said earlier, Ernst and his team have the horses at the top of the game and I am very fortunate to be riding them for him and Mr Al Nabooda who deserves this success as he puts a lot into the game. That is actually the first time I have ridden this horse and he has always been a nice horse who has competed in top company for several years. It was nice to finally get on him, especially to win a nice prize.”
Al Nabooda added: “That is another good result for us all and, as I have said many times, Ernst is a very good trainer and, in Tadhg, we have the champion jockey, so I have a good team behind me.”
The action kicked off with a 1600m maiden restricted to horses foaled in the UAE and AF Al Aassi was able to make it third time lucky for the same trio. Settled in third, just behind the leaders, the 4-year-colt, homebred by Al Nabooda, was sent for home 350m out and was always holding the late challenge of Blue Diamond.
“We had two nice colts in the race and luckily I picked the right one who I thought probably had a bit more stamina and that proved to be the case, but the other one, AF Al Kal Noor, has finished third, so it is a great result for the stable and Mr Al Nabooda. My fellow ran very well on debut when second here over 1400m and was then fourth, over the same course and distance, in the Abu Dhabi Colts Classic, so was dropping in class today.”
Connections immediately doubled up, combining to take the following 2200m maiden with Daana who, from 14 previous starts, had twice finished both second and third, but made no mistake on this occasion.
Settled nearer last than first by O’Shea, the 6-year-old mare could be spotted making stealthy progress down the back straight before encountering traffic on the home turn, forcing the champion jockey to pull her wide. Once in the clear they swept to the front nearing the 200m pole, staying on strongly to deny Laheeb Al Reef who was finishing fast and late under Gerald Avranche, but the line appeared just in time for Daana.
“Ernst has had his horses in great form all season,” O’Shea said. “I am lucky to have this retainer with Mr Al Nabooda who has so many nice horses and the right man training them. Daana has really enjoyed running through horses we discovered, so I was content to bide my time and, apart from briefly being short of room, it all went pretty smoothly.”
Dassan Da registered an emphatic victory in the 1600m handicap restricted to horses in private ownership, taking up the running 450m out before powering clear under Emirati apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei. Trained by Helal Al Alawi for Khalid Mohd Rahma Al Shamsi, it was a third career victory for the 7-year-old and second in the UAE having won a virtually identical handicap last February, as well as a 2100m victory on an all-weather surface in Europe back in June 2016.
“We had a wide draw, but that has suited me as this horse does not like to be crowded,” Al Mazrooei said. “He has travelled so strongly throughout the race I was pretty confident from a long way out and that was a good performance.”
The only Thoroughbred race and event on the card was a 1600m maiden, which concluded proceedings and Ahmad bin Harmash and stable jockey, Connor Beasley, continued their fine seasons with the comfortable victory of Sa’Ada, opening her account on career start 11, her ninth UAE outing. One of two 4-year-old fillies among the 14 runners, the daughter of Bellamy Road finished her first local campaign with a fourth place finish in the Group 3 UAE Oaks, but disappointed on her first two outings this season before chasing home Draco in a conditions race at Jebel Ali.
Most recently she was fourth in a 1600m maiden on the turf at Meydan and Beasley, sporting the predominantly green silks of syndicate Al Bait Mutawahed Team, said: “She ran very well at Jebel Ali two starts back and was probably unlucky the last day at Meydan. She was always travelling well this evening and then quickened when I asked her. This 1600m is plenty sharp enough for her and she can hopefully build on this step back up in trip.”