Abu Dhabi: Sniper De Monlau ridden by jockey Patrick Cosgrave emerged as a firm favourite for President’s Cup for Purebred Arabians after a thrilling victory in the Prep race at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on Sunday.
The six-year-old chestnut son of Calin Du Loup, runner up in the President’s Cup a year ago, got the better of Abu Alabyad and Ziyadd by a neck in the 2,200-metre showdown.
Sniper De Monlau, stable star for Helal Al Alawi and owners The Byerley Team, was winning for a fourth time but, in the past, had at least twice compromised his chances, by hanging badly in races he arguably should have won.
This was a strong trial with last year’s HH The President Cup heroine, Loraa among the field, along with Mahbooba, victorious in the Dh1million Group 1 Emirates Championship last March, also over the same Abu Dhabi 2,200m and winner of this prep 12 months ago.
Second, beaten a neck by Loraa last year in HH The President Cup, connections will be hoping Sniper De Monlau, who was also third in last year’s Group 1 Kahayla Classic, the sole Purebred Arabian race on the Dubai World Cup card on the Meydan dirt, can go one better this season when he has been campaigned sparingly.
“We all know he is a talented horse but can certainly be tricky! He is not the type of horse who is ever likely to win by far but we had a wide draw which suits him and he was definitely on a going day. Fair play to Helal and his team; they have given him a nice break since the big Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown in November. That was over 1,600m but he is better over this kind of trip. Hopefully that will put him spot on for the big race itself and then a crack at some of the big prizes at Meydan,” said Cosgrave.
Half an hour earlier, Billingsgate produced a scintillating performance to win the only Thoroughbred race, a handicap over 1400m, in which he seemingly sprouted wings, down the centre of the track, having entered the straight, which is approximately 400m long, virtually last of the 14 runners.
However, once pulled wide by Fernando Jara, he produced a devastating burst of acceleration which swept him past at least eight rivals to actually hit the front about 150m out.
A winner four times in England for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby, twice each on turf and the Kempton Polytrack, the seven-year-old powered home, to open his local account at the 11th attempt and provide his trainer, Maria Ritchie, a fourth winner this season.
“We had a Thoroughbred winner here in December and have quite a few turf horses so these chances to run on grass are important to us. We thought, on turf, he had a big chance and we knew he had that turn of foot. Luckily he was able to unleash it and that was an excellent ride from Fernando,” said Ritchie.
The maximum field of 14 may have faced the starter in the opening 1,400m maiden but very few were ever able to get involved with AF Waqas either first or second throughout. Challenged, for the lead during the first half of the race by JAP Tayeb Falek, that rival weakened quickly on the home turn, leaving Antonio Fresu and AF Waqas in splendid isolation.
Homebred by Champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and having a fourth career start, all this season and second on turf, the five-year-old galloped on strongly without ever looking likely to be caught.
Fresu has forged a fruitful alliance with the horse’s trainer, Ernst Oertel, who prepares most of the Al Nabooda string and the jockey said: “This horse ran very well over this course and distance on his penultimate start and is improving with experience. You always know, wearing these silks in this type of race, you are going to have some kind of chance and the trainer has been in great form all season. I am just lucky, and grateful, to get these opportunities.”
Al Nabooda and Oertel were responsible for three of the eight runners in a 1200m handicap, promptly securing a notable 1-2-3 but Fresu had to settle for second on AF Thobor. The pair tracked AF Ssayeb from the outset but were unable to get past his stable companion, never headed under Silvestre de Sousa, with AF Ashras staying on late to claim third for Tadhg O’Shea. Like AF Waqas, all three are bred by the owner and by the same sire, AF Al Buraq, who he also bred.
“Obviously we have to be delighted with that and AF Ssayeb and AF Thobor were first and second the whole way with AF Ashras staying on nicely. The winner only ran last week when he needed the race after six weeks off and this was just his second start of the season. He has now won four times over 1200m, three of them here at Abu Dhabi and, all being well, he will be back here next Sunday for a race over 1000m as he has plenty of speed and has won over that trip before,” said Oertel.