Abu Dhabi: AF Mathmoon created history by becoming the first local bred horse to win the Kahayla Classic last year.
The success also ended Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, seven-year wait for his eighth success in the Arabian showpiece event at the Dubai World Cup meeting.
This time around too, AF Mathmoon will be a leading player in what looks like a very competitive field.
And if he can repeat the success he had 12 months, he will become the third horse after Alanudd (Unchained Meloday) and Madjani to retain the Kahayla Classic.
Alanudd and Madjani jointly hold the record of winning three consecutive Kahayla Classics.
AF Mathmoon’s victory last year provided a shot in the arm for local breeding. The six-year-old grey son of AF Albahar was impressive under Dane O’Neill.
O’Neill had his mount well-placed at the 600-metre mark and then led close home to win from Qatar’s TM Thunder Struck under experienced French jockey Olivier Peslier by a neck.
This success for O’Neill and Emirati trainer Musabah Al Muhairi also brought huge smiles and sent in a strong message to the racing fraternity that quality horses can be bred in harsh conditions locally.
Emirati breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda was naturally elated by AF Mathmoon’s success in the popular silks of Shaikh Hamdan.
“I am very proud of the result,” said a jubilant Al Nabooda at that time. “This means that we can show the world that we can breed Group 1 Purebred Arabian horses that can compete in the biggest races around the world.
“I would like to thank Shaikh Hamdan and wish him all the luck with this horse. I’m so glad for him and the horse.”
AF Mathmoon has been relocated at Ali Rashid Al Rayhi’s Grandstand Stables from his brother-in-law Al Muhairi’s Oasis Stables.
Al Muhairi has been slapped with a 12-month ban for cobalt use on racehorses last month.
There may also be a change on the riding plans with the British Champion and Shaikh Hamdan’s retained jockey Jim Crowley set to take over from O’Neill.
Crowley was onboard AF Mathmoon in his last two victories and hence is expected to retain the ride.
Al Mathmoon was solid in both his victories in the last two starts over 1,600m at Meydan.
In January, he won by eight and half lengths over RB Burn, winner of the 1.2million euros Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown — the world’s richest race for Purebred Arabians. A month later, he trounced AF Maqayes by more than five lengths.
Al Rayhi is upbeat of AF Mathmoon retaining the Kahayla Classic, saying he is in the best of shape.
“I got to see him just three weeks ago as he was with another trainer (Al Muhairi),” he said.
“Since he moved into my stables he has responded well. He is a very easy horse to train and ride. He is a very straightforward. Of course, he will face strong challenge,” added Al Rayhi, who also has a second runner in AF Maqayes, who will run in the silks of Al Nabooda.