Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi’s turf track hosts a six-race card on Sunday, completing three consecutive days of racing on a busy UAE weekend.
The meeting is highlighted by the Listed 1600m Abu Dhabi Championship, which has attracted a field of 15, with a trio representing Al Asayl, including the only two previous victors in the race.
Jaahiz, a course and distance winner on his only racecourse appearance, will again be ridden by Jesus Rosales, while Gerald Avranche partners RB Grynade, successful just last Friday at Al Ain over 1600m. Ridden on that occasion by Tadhg O’Shea, he has been deserted by the season’s leading jockey this time in favour of stable companion Asyyad, third on his sole racecourse appearance, also over 1600m at Al Ain.
All three are trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel for President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and O’Shea said: “Again I was faced with a very difficult choice and the Al Asayl team certainly have three good chances. The other pair have both won but Asyyad showed a lot of promise, after a slow start, on his one outing and has a lot of potential. Hopefully I picked right but all three are capable of running big races in an open contest.”
As well as the aforementioned two previous winners, the field of 15 also includes a pair having their first career starts, including El Faust. Owned by The Royal Cavalry, who are also responsible for last year’s winner of this race, the ultra-impressive Maisoor, El Faust is trained by Ebrahim Al Hadhrami. The mount of Adrie de Vries, he is joined by the filly AF Tosattar, in having their first racecourse appearance. She is one of no less than five in the race trained by Ernst Oertel for champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. Antonio Fresu has booked Shareef KB suggesting the three-year-old is the main hope, although he was well beaten on debut behind RB Grynade, just last week.
Over 1400m and, like the Abu Dhabi Championship, also restricted to three-year-olds, but to those foaled in the UAE, both the Abu Dhabi fillies and colts classics carry prestige status. As with the feature, there is little form to go on with only a handful of previous winners joined by a smattering of those making their debuts and both have attracted the maximum field allowed of 16.
The fillies’ race opens proceedings and O’Shea partners Ras Esina, one of two representing Al Asayl and victorious on her one start to date, a course and distance maiden, five weeks ago. She is joined by Darajat, unraced as yet and the mount of Avranche. Again Oertel and Al Nabooda combine, this time with two runners of which Fresu partners AF Sharesah, easy winner on her second start over 1600m here at Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago. Champion jockey Richard Mullen partners debutant and stable companion AF Athabeh.
However, the one they all have to beat could be Ghazayel, representing Oman and the most experienced runner in the race, victorious three times in five outings, the first in January. She will be the first runner in the UAE for trainer Younus Al Kalbani, as was the aforementioned Maisoor for Saeed Al Badi when wining the Abu Dhabi Championship last year. Regular pilot, apprentice Saif Al Beloushi, maintains the partnership and, if she takes to turf, they will be hard to beat.
The colts’ equivalent includes three debutants but just one previous winner, the Elise Jeanne-trained MH Rahal, the mount of Connor Beasley. Victorious over 1200m at Sharjah on his second and most recent start, he was third over this track and trip to the aforementioned Ras Esina on debut. Ras Esina’s Al Asayl connections are represented here by Mushairib who is seeking to make it third time lucky but was well beaten on both previous starts, an eight length third on the most recent one.
The only thoroughbred contest, a 2400m handicap, looks a virtual repeat of the 2200m one staged here three weeks ago. Empoli under Pat Dobbs led, literally on the line, to deny stable companion, Ostaad, to provide Doug Watson a 1-2. The third, Handsome Man, fourth, Nafaqa, fifth, Snow Squall, and sixth, Rio Tigre, are all back in opposition but most attention will be lavished on Ennjaaz, a rare runner in the capital for Godolphin and Saeed Bin Surour.
Well beaten on his local and dirt debut, the three-year-old was a winner on Polytrack at Chelmsford in England and will be having just his sixth career outing. Well berthed in stall three, on just his second turf outing, he and Harry Bentley could be the main danger to Empoli, a Group One winner in his pomp.