Dubai: Sam Hitchott described UAE-bred ES Ajeeb as the best Purebred Arabian he has ever ridden after holding on for a thrilling victory in the Group 2 Bani Yas, sponsored by Gulf News, at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday.
The winner, bred and owned by Shaikh Abdullah Bin Majid Al Qasimi at the Emirates Stud Farm, prevailed by nose from fast-finishing Mawahib, the mount of an energised Fabrice Veron.
ES Ajeeb authoritatively led for most of the 1,400m trip but appeared to weaken inside the final half furlong, allowing Veron to close the gap, stride by stride aboard Mawahib.
Hitchott sprung to his mount’s defence after the prize presentation saying: “He was drawn on the widest gate (14) and had to cover a lot more ground than the others, so that was a fair performance. But that’s (1,400m) as far as he wants to go.
“He’s still a big baby but he is open to improvement. He’s still very unsure of himself when he’s on the track but he makes up for it with his speed and ability, which he has in abundance.”
ES Ajeeb was trained by Ibrahim Aseel, who appears to be quietly making a name for himself on the flat racing circuit in the UAE. “I was very confident he will run well, I had no doubt about it,” the Sudan-born handler said.
“He’s been training well at home and we came here very confident. He’s learning and improving we every race he runs so we are hopeful of him winning more races for Shaikh Abdullah who puts in a lot of effort into breeding good Arab horses.
“He’s at best a six and seven furlong horse, so we’ll run him over these distances and hopefully find some nice races for him,” added Aseel, who has 15 horses in his care at Shaikh Abdullah’s Emirates Stud Stables.
“We have some nice horses back home in Sharjah, but he’s one we have always held in very high regard. He has a lot of natural ability and this says a lot about the UAE breds. There are so many good horses on the circuit. I think Arabian racing has a very bright future.”
The Bani Yas was the first of seven races on a card sponsored by Gulf News, the UAE and Gulf region’s leading English-language newspaper, who are a major patron of horse racing. The other six races on the night carried the names of several of the newspaper’s publications.
Gulf News are also the sponsor of the $2.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, the Group 1 sprint race that is one of the highlights of the $35 million Dubai World Cup card next March.