Dubai: Friday was a very special day for two of the nicest jockeys in weighing room when Fernando Jara celebrated his 33rd birthday by winning the feature race at Jebel Ali Racecourse after Royston Ffrench reached a landmark 300 wins in the UAE.
Jara will forever be remembered for his accomplishments aboard the South American-bred Invasor, American Horse of the Year in 2006 and winner of three of the world’s biggest races in 2007 including the Dubai World Cup (G1), Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Donn Handicap (G!).
Riding Dark Silver, a three-year-old son of Dark Angel who was making his UAE debut after an exhausting 2020 campaign in the UK, Jara found him to be a willing ally.
More importantly, Dark Silver took to the Jebel Ali track like a fish takes to water and the pair cantered home nine and-a-quarter lengths clear of their seven rivals in the Emirates Airline Stakes Conditions event for three-year-olds.
“I wasn’t expecting he will win like this,” said the Panamanian who is based at the Al Aasfa Stables. “He was doing extremely good at home, but first time here you never know how they’re going to run. But thank God he got the job done in a good fashion.
“It’s a good birthday present.”
Meanwhile, Royston Ffrench has been riding in the UAE for so long that he admitted that he couldn’t remember his first winner in the country.
After reaching the coveted 300-win milestone aboard Honourable Justice in the Emirates Skywards Handicap, the British rider paid tribute to his friends and associates in the UAE.
“I’m honoured to reach 300 winners, particularly on this track,” he told the Dubai Racing Channel. “I’ve been blessed with many good trainers and many good horses along the way. I’m very grateful.”
Ironically, it was at Jebel Ali Racecourse back in January 2018 that Ffrench suffered a scary fall when Frankyfourfingers fell while in the lead in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile. Ffrench suffered multiple injuries - including a dislocated elbow and fractures to his leg and arm in the incident.
He went on to make a strong recovery and bounce back seven months later in the UK to ride his first winner at Catterick.
Earlier in the afternoon, Tom Marquand, one of the stars of the 2020 British flat-racing season, wasted no time to open his UAE account when he teamed up with the Nicholas Bachalard-trained debutant Mouheeb to win the opening Emirates Holidays Maiden in impressive style from Hurry Up, the mount of Ffrench.
“We always thought he was a nice horse, the question always was the distance,’’ said Bachalard, who was recording a fifth winner for the season from just 16 starts.
‘‘We thought 12 will suit him better but obviously, we’ll have to look a mile next time. The Guineas Trial looks the obvious choice but he’s been training forwardly in the morning He’s a proper dirt horse,” the Frenchman added.
“We paid quite a bit of money for him but he’s done everything right in the morning - so hopefully he’ll be a horse for the future for us.”
Champion trainer Doug Watson continued to consolidate his position as the leading trainer in the UAE when he sent out his 15th winner in the final race on the card, the SkyCargo Handicap, with Habah.