Dubai: The $1 million Dubai Kahayla Classic, one of the world’s most prestigious Purebred Arabian races which takes place at Meydan Racecourse in March, will be the likely target for outstanding Omani galloper Al Roba’a Al Khali after he stormed home an imperious winner of the GCC Cup on Saturday afternoon.
Despite running wide and taking the longest way round the 1,700m trip at Sharjah Racecourse, the Hamed Salim Rashid Al Balushi five-year-old comfortably outshone his rivals to win the third running of a race that was established to be the definitive Gulf championship.
With Al Moatasem Al Balushi in the saddle for Omani handler Younis Al Kalbani, Al Roba’a Al Khali was ridden to lead approaching the final two furlongs from where he pulled clear to scored by two and a half lengths from Saudi raider Shareq Al Khalediah, the mount of Antonio Fresu, with Es Nahawand and Harry Bentley edging out Ryan Curatolo’s Mh Rahal, as Bernardo Pinheiro piloted Ballad Al Reef on the official photo for fifth.
Al Balushi said that the obvious plan for the winner would be to aim him at the Dubai Kahayla Classic on March 27.
“He’s a very special horse,” he said. “Right from his first start he showed that he was special. He’s loves his racing and seems to be getting better and better with each run. He’s still a little green and ran a bit too freely at Sharjah, but he had enough stamina and ability to compensate for his immaturity. He’s a horse that every trainer wants to have in his stable and we are very pleased to have a horse of this calibre.”
Al Balushi said Al Roba’a Al Khali always gave him confidence. “Whenever he runs you know that he will give you one hundred per cent,” the Omani jockey said. “I was a bit confident going to the race, but you can never be sure with so many good horses and jockeys in the race. He settled nicely and I was happy to ride him a bit wide and when I asked him for his effort he responded in his usual way finding more and more. He’s a very classy horse and it’s a privilege to be able to ride him for such a good team.”
The race, which carried a purse of Dh150,00, was restricted to horses foaled in the GCC. The inaugural running went to Saudi Arabia when Mubasher Al Khalediah landed the spoils.
The final race of the evening, the only thoroughbred race on the card, was the Longines Spirit Collection Cup which was won by Antonio Fresu and the Musabeh Al Mheiri-trained Apolo Kid.
Meanwhile, Omani apprentice Saif Al Balushi, who won his first race of the season at Jebel Ali on Friday, maintained his winning run when partnering Af Mozhell to victory in the Longines Spirit Collection for trainer Khalifa Al Neyadi.