Saturday is not only the sixth and final meeting of the Sharjah season, but also the best. It features both the Sharjah Marathon and their biggest race of the campaign, The Ruler Of Sharjah Trophy, a 1700m Prestige race for which 13 have been declared.
That includes last year’s winner Mahfouz, the choice of Tadhg O’Shea. The 5-year-old is one of three in the race for the Al Asayl team of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Eric Lemartinel. Owner and jockey have actually combined to win the last four renewals of the race, the two most recent saddled by Lemartinel. O’Shea is actually seeking to win the race for the sixth time in seven years.
Tadhg O’Shea said: “Conditions obviously suit Mahfouz and he arrives here after a hard fought victory at Al Ain, so he is in good form but this looks a very hot renewal. The jockey added: “ES Ajeeb, who is owned and trained in Sharjah looks the one to beat but we will have to make sure he is not allowed an uncontested lead this time. Mulhim looked smart winning at Al Ain last week.”
Trained by Ibrahim Aseel, ES Ajeeb was well beaten on his debut over 1200m at Sharjah before winning a maiden by 19 lengths eight weeks later, over the same course and distance. His only subsequent outing was also a victory on the Abu Dhabi turf in the Listed Arabian Triple Crown R1 over 1600m.
Sam Hitchcott is undefeated on the horse and said: “He should stay the extra distance and we know he handles the Sharjah surface so hopefully he has a lot in his favour and is the one the others have to beat.”
Trained by Helal Al Alawi for Yas Horse Racing Management, the aforementioned Mulhim won a 1400m Al Ain maiden last week by a staggering 22 lengths, on his debut for the yard. He will again be ridden by Richard Mullen who said: “That was only his second local start last week and it was the first time I had ridden him. He was impressive undoubtedly but this is a lot stronger race on Saturday. The jockey continue: “He is clearly in good heart, but ES Ajeeb looks a big danger to us all.”
Half an hour later ten are set to take their chance in the Sharjah Marathon, a fitting finale to the Sharjah campaign. Among the contenders is The Secret, winner of the race in each of the last two seasons for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum who has owned the winner five times in a race first contested in 2010 and not run in 2012.
The mount of Sam Hitchcott, he has registered all five career victories at Sharjah and is trained by Doug Watson, who said: “He certainly saves his best for Sharjah and conditions are obviously fine for him. He seems in good form at home so with luck he will produce another big performance on his favourite track.”
Again Al Asayl have three runners with O’Shea opting to partner Ifraaj, both of whose victories were achieved at Al Ain, over 2000m, in January 2017. Runner-up in three of his four most recent starts, once at Sharjah, he has been running consistently.
O’Shea said: “We know he stays 2000m well and hope the longer trip will suit him. It is always a strong race and this year is no exception.”
On his penultimate, start Ifraaj chased home AF Abahe who was completing a rapid hat-trick over 2000m at Sharjah. Trained by Ernst Oertel for champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, he has disappointed in two subsequent starts at Al Ain, where he has won twice and including just last week.
The weights are headed by Shivan OA, a winner over 2200m on the turf at Abu Dhabi in November but yet to win, after nine attempts, on dirt. Having his first look at Sharjah, he will be ridden by Pat Cosgrave for Helal Al Alawi.