Al Ain: Al Ain stages its second meeting of the season on Friday with the 1,800m handicap taking centre stage with a select field of six.
President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan owns two of the runners, both trained at Al Asayl Stables by Eric Lemartinel with Tadhg O’Shea electing to partner Meydan Du Paon with stable companion, Ifraaj, the mount of Jesus Rosales.
In receipt of weight from his five rivals, Ifraaj has recorded both his career victories here at Al Ain, over 2000m, as well as finishing second in last season’s UAE Derby, over Friday’s course and distance.
He was, however, well beaten on his seasonal debut, two weeks ago, also over this track and trip when ridden by O’Shea, whose choice, Meydan Du Paon, has a solitary victory to his name.
That was achieved on his second career start, over 1,600m at Al Ain in January 2016, the last time O’Shea, who also rode him on his debut, has been in the saddle.
O’Shea, whose chosen mount finished ahead of Ifraaj last time, on what was his second start of the season, said, “It was a tough choice between the two but Ifraaj was a bit disappointing last time whereas Meydan Du Paon ran well so, on recent form, he won the verdict.
“I did actually win on him the last time I rode him so hopefully, he will remember that and follow up!”
Also doubly represented is Helal Al Alawi whose string could not be in better form and enters the busy UAE racing weekend with 12 winners so far this season, second only to Doug Watson.
All bar one have been partnered by Pat Cosgrave, himself leading the jockeys’ championship with 13 before racing at Meydan on Thursday and who rides the trainer’s RB Fired Up in this.
Well beaten on his local debut, at Sharjah, Cosgrave’s selection then won the course and distance handicap in which Meydan Du Paon was second and Ifraaj well beaten.
Al Alawi also saddles RB Burning Risk, to be ridden by Connor Beasley and actually finished ahead of Cosgrave’s mount when third at Sharjah, on his second UAE outing to date.
“Our horses have been running well all season and we hope both these two can on Friday.
“There are not many runners but it looks a competitive race and, with luck, our two will be involved in the finish,” said Al Alawi.
The field is completed by AF Abahe, winner of a 1600m maiden at the first Al Ain meeting of the campaign, and Ajjaj.
Trained by Ernst Oertel for champion owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, AF Abahe will again be ridden by Antonio Fresu, while Saif Al Deen Deeb relies on Ajjaj.
Deeb’s charge is the mount of reigning champion jockey, Richard Mullen, who appears to hold leading claims in the only thoroughbred race on the card, a maiden, also over 1,800m.
He rides Dawwass for his main employer, Satish Seemar and the pair will be hoping to build on their excellent second in a 2000m course maiden a fortnight ago.
On that occasion, they chased home Quartier Latin, ridden by O’Shea for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and that pair combine again here with Soy Britanico, one of four in the field from Grandstand Stables.
As was the case with Quartier Latin, Soy Britanico arrives here with just one previous career outing to his name and both were well beaten on their Meydan debuts. O’Shea hopes Soy Britanico can emulate his stablemate and said: “He is a lovely, big horse and whatever he does this season he will be a nice prospect next year.
“Ali also has Avenue Of Dreams, Mears and Cherkes Pharoah in the race but I like Soy Britanico who goes from conceding weight all round last time to receiving it here.
“Dawwass looks the main danger but I am drawn alongside him and, hopefully, can get a nice tow into the race from him as I was able to on Quartier Latin last time.”