Royston Ffrench, riding High On Life, finishes ahead of Richard Mullen and Riflescope at Jebel Ali. Image Credit: Antonin Kallouche/ Gulf News

Dubai: Jockey Royston Ffrench made a triumphant return to Jebel Ali Racecourse, where he suffered a serious injury in January, to score a hard-fought victory aboard High On Life in the Shadwell Handicap, the feature race on the opening day of the 2018-2019 UAE racing season.

Ffrench was out of action for over seven months after his mount, Frankyfourfingers suffered a fatal fall. The popular rider sustained a dislocated elbow and fractures to his leg and arm.

But there were no signs whatsoever of any apprehension on the part of Ffrench as he conjured up a huge effort from front-running High On Life to deny Riflescope, the mount of Richard Mullen, in a thrilling finish to the Dh120,000 Shadwell Handicap.

Commenting on his return to Jebel Ali win since the January’s frightening fall, Ffrench said: “It always such a great feeling to win a race here at Jebel Ali.

“The crowds and the fans have been very supportive and gave me such a warm welcome. It really felt good.”

Ffrench credited the team at Fazza Stables for High On Life’s victory.

“The stable has done a great job with him. Joanna rides him out every day and does such a great job,” he said.

“He can be very keen at times but Sandy and the team have done well to keep him relaxed.

“At one time I thought that they were going to catch him but he stuck on well and wasn’t blowing very hard as well.”

The honour of winning the first race of the new season went to Emirati trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe who sent out the aptly named Hello to claim the East Sport Management Handicap over 1950 metres. The winner was ridden by Panama’s Fernando Jara, who is in his second season as resident rider to Al Raihe’s championship winning stables.

“It’s always good to get a winner on the opening day of a new season,” said the Emirati handler. “It takes the pressure off and hopefully also builds confidence in the team at Grandstand Stables.

“He’s a nice horse who has shown some up and down form. But this was a good effort and he clearly likes the track as he won a race here two seasons ago.”

Also sharing the opening day’s spotlight were National Stables handler Helel Al Alawi and the talented William Lee who recorded a double with Silchester in the Commercial Bank of Dubai Handicap and Qadiriyyah in the ServeU Maiden.

Meanwhile, Ben Stokes, who was in the historic port and fishing town of Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland, wasted no time to open his UAE account when booting home the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Kunani in the Al Redha Insurance Brokers handicap.