AF Maher, ridden by jockey Tadhg O’Shea and trained by Ernst Oertel wins the Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 3) race on Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting at Meydan racecourse. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Three years ago, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda won the $1 million Dubai Kahayla Classic (Group 1), one of the world’s most prestigious races for Purebred Arabia horses, as a breeder.

Now he will bid to win the 2,000 metre contest again on the Dubai World Cup night on March 30, but for the first time as an owner, following AF Maher’s decisive start-to-finish victory in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan Racecourse.

Al Nabooda, who has been a prolific breeder to high-class Arabian racehorses, is currently enjoying a landmark season in the UAE as an owner, where he tops the Championship Table with 40 winners.

Ridden by his retained rider Tadhg O’Shea, AF Maher broke smartly and was soon pushed to lead his nine rivals, a position that he never looked like relinquishing to win by comfortable margin of three-and-a-half lengths from Ziyaad, the mount of Richard Mullen, with the Fernando Jara-piloted Goshawke back in third.

Al Nabooda did not hesitate to nominate the winner for this year’s renewal of the Dubai Kahayla Classic which is the Arabian showpiece on Dubai World Cup night.

“We though he was unlucky in the GCC Cup at Sharjah two weeks ago, when he finished a close third, so we were expecting him to run well today,” said the owner/breeder. “But what he did today was pretty impressive, something we did not really expect. Clearly his likes the track at Meydan and will next take his chances in the Kahayla Classic, where we will meet the horses from Saudi Arabia once gain, just like we did in the GCC Cup at Sharjah.

“I’m very proud to breed and own horses like him. It’s very rewarding for a horseman.”

O’Shea, who won the Kahayla Classic in 2008 with Mizzna, was full of praise for AF Maher, whom he has ridden in all but one of his last seven starts.

“He had a bit to find on the ratings but he hasn’t had many runs on the dirt, this was his first at Meydan, but he truly relished tonight’s condition and the trip,” he said. “He’s very tough and has very good early gate speed, which means a lot on a dirt track if a horse jumps well. He was travelling well and I was able to fill him up on the trip. He’s quite fit and he got to the line by himself.

“I’m a bit surprised but happy. I had a very, very willing partner. I’m delighted to ride a Group 1 winner for Khalid in my first year being his retained jockey. It’s a rally nice way to pay him back for the confidence he has shown in me.”

The Dubai Kahayla Classic was first run as the Mashreq Bank Handicap in 1996 before being rebranded as the Dubai Arabian Classic conditions race in 1997. In 2000 the race became the Dubai Kahayla Classic, a year after it became a Group 1 race when it was run on dirt at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse until 2010. The first renewal of the race was run at the newly built Meydan Racecourse on the synthetic Tapeta surface and was won by the Julian Smart-trained Jaafer.