Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club staged the first of its six fixtures throughout the new campaign on Saturday, a six-race card highlighted by the sole Thoroughbred contest, a handicap over 1000m, won comfortably by Bedaveeya.
Partnered by Richard Mullen, riding for his main employer Satish Seemar, they chased the strong early pace set by Ajwad, in company with the Doug Watson duo of Dangerous Thought and Team Meeting. It was the last named who found the going too tough nearing the 300m pole at which point Dangerous Thought hit the front but was soon challenged by Bedaveeya with Ajwad still battling between them.
However, with about 100m remaining, Mullen’s mount surged clear to settle the matter in a few strides, chased home by Dangerous Thought with a gallant Ajwad denied third close home by Jockey Joe. In doing so, Bedaveeya provided owners Dubai Japan Aibakai with a first UAE winner and is the only horse to have raced for them to date.
“That was only his fourth career start and he can improve,” Mullen said: “He had two runs late last season at Jebel Ali and back there again at the first meeting of the new campaign when he was an excellent second.
“He has come on a lot for that outing and we hoped this flat track would suit him because he has plenty of natural speed.”
The opening 1200m maiden produced a thrilling finish with Muhaymin and Emir De Carrere locked together throughout the final 300m, shortly after the latter had headed the early leader, AF Lewaa.
Debutant Muhaymin, with William Lee riding for Helal Al Alawi, gained the initiative with less than 200m to run but Emir De Carrere, under a powerful drive from Ben Curtis, refused to be beaten and regained the advantage in the final strides.
Having his fourth start, the determined victor is trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri and was a first winner for owners Al Wasl Racing with their 21st runner.
Curtis, who had won the opener at Abu Dhabi on Friday for Al Mheiri aboard AF Momtaz, said: “That was close and credit to both horses who have really tried hard. Luckily for me, we arrived at the post with my horse’s neck extended and, crossing the line, I thought we had just made it.
“This is my fourth winner in my first UAE campaign which has really started well and is proving a great experience.”
The following 1200m handicap also developed into a duel, this time over the concluding 400m with AF Meghwaar and Fernando Jara attempting to get past ES Tango, the pair puling clear of their 13 rivals. Try as they may, it proved a fruitless quest with ES Tango responding gamely to the urgings of Sam Hitchcott and registering a third career victory, all on dirt.
Trained on the Sharjah track by Ibrahim Al Aseel, ES Tango made a winning debut, over this course and distance almost exactly two years ago, as well as landing a 1000m dash at Al Ain last December.
“Obviously we like to do well here on our home course,” Aseel said: “And it is important to have winners for my main patron, Sheikh Abdulla bin Majid Al Qassemi who also bred this mare.”
Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea will be riding a lot for owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, who enjoyed an Abu Dhabi double on Friday, this season and they combined to land the 1000m maiden with homebred debutant AF Alwajel.
Never far off the pace, the pair quickened to the front just over halfway and they galloped resolutely to the line with the result never in any doubt. The winner is prepared by Ernst Oertel, who trains the majority of the Al Nabooda string, and appears to have a decent young horse on his hands.
“He had been working well on the dirt surface at home so we were quite hopeful,” Oertel said: “Mr Al Nabooda has some nice horses and deserves all the success he gets as he puts a lot into the sport, especially with the local Purebred Arabians he breeds on his farm.”
O’Shea added: “Winners are always nice and especially so in these colours. I have enjoyed plenty of good luck in them over the years and Ernst and I have always done well together.”
The 2000m maiden produced another close finish with Jiniz, who seemingly had the race in safe keeping turning into the short Sharjah straight, denied close home by Mh Reyah E’Shemal.
Settled in midfield by Connor Beasley, the winner made stealthy progress down the back straight but still had plenty of ground to make up entering the final turn. However, once straightened for home, Beasley’s mount responded well for pressure to open her career tally at the seventh attempt.
Homebred by Mansoor Khalifa Sultan bin Habtoor, the filly delighted her trainer, Elise Jeanne, who said: “She has shown a really good attitude there and it is a great result for the owner, as well as our yard.
“Connor rode her very well and timed his challenge to perfection after it looked like the runner-up had the race won.”
The finale, a 1700m handicap, produced a virtual carbon copy finish only this time Jeanne and Beasley were denied close home by Al Jazi who appeared a most unlikely winner when, early in the back straight, she was being rousted along by Pat Cosgrave and seemingly struggling.
However, the pair started to make ground on the home turn while, up front, Beasley had set sail for home on MH Areeb in what had looked a race winning move. It was only in the final 150m the result looked in any doubt and, with Beasley’s mount tiring, Al Jazi actually won going away.
Running in the colours of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trained by Eric Lemartinel, it was a third career victory for the 6-year-old mare, but first since she landed a 1000m dash at Al Ain in February 2017.
“She has run on very well in the end,” Cosgrave said: “She certainly made me work, but in fairness, when it mattered she has delivered.”