Sharjah: The Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club hosts its third meeting of the season on Saturday afternoon with the highlight being the Umm Al Quwain Handicap over 2000 metres.
UAE Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea looks the one to beat aboard RB Burning Ash.
Trained by Eric Lemartinel, whose string are in glorious form, RB Burning Ash has won just once in 12 starts yet has consistency on his side.
This appears his easiest task for a while and, although yet to win on dirt, he was second at Al Ain on a similar surface almost exactly a year ago.
This is the furthest trip he has faced to date but he was staying on over 1600m last time at Abu Dhabi and is worth a try over the extra distance.
He has yet to race at Sharjah, where his jockey excels and it could be the key to unlocking his winning drought dating back to March 2015.
“He has been pleasing us at home and handles dirt well,” said O’Shea. “We think he will stay the 2000m, especially at Sharjah and are hopeful but the draw could have been kinder to us.”
Sharjah specialist, MH Areeb, trained by Elise Jeanne, is seeking a sixth victory at the track and a seventh career success. He has not actually won over this trip but has twice finished second over 2000m and has already won this season, over 1700m at Sharjah.
Adrie de Vries rides for Jeanne: “He loves it at Sharjah and rarely disappoints. It looks a strong race but he is in great shape and a real favourite in the yard,” said the jockey.
The only Thoroughbred contest is another 2000m handicap which appears to revolve around Watheeq who has registered all three of his UAE victories over this trip at Sharjah.
That includes winning in the middle of November both last year and in 2013 so, with a Meydan pipe-opener under his belt nine days ago, he should be spot on for this.
The mount of the owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, he is trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, master of Grandstand Stables, as is Skygazer, to be ridden by the trainer’s stable jockey, O’Shea.
“Grandstand Stables look to have a strong hand,” said O’Shea. “Skygazer won over this trip at Al Ain last season and is very fit after two runs already this season.
“Watheeq loves it at Sharjah and Saturday’s conditions are optimal so he looks the one to beat.”
Trainer Doug Watson and jockey Pat Dobbs combine with Sheeba, beaten a long way at the first meeting of the season at Jebel Ali but impossible to rule out representing such a powerful yard.
“He does not seem to like Jebel Ali,” said Watson. “Hopefully Sharjah will suit him better and he is working nicely.”
The race in which Sheeba was well beaten at Jebel Ali was won by Tadmir for trainer Erwan Charpy, who is back in opposition.
Charpy’s charge has actually won both his two most recent outings, having also scored in China, on turf, in April.
He looks a big danger under Antonio Fresu.
Satish Seemar has been the trainer to follow in Thoroughbred races recently and saddles Prince Jai, the mount of stable jockey Richard Mullen.
Still a maiden, this will be his fifth UAE start and his first local outing in handicap company and he could be the surprise package in the race.
Assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar, said: “We hope he can run a nice race and think conditions will suit him.”