Abu Dhabi: Traditionally one of the highlights of the Abu Dhabi campaign, Sunday’s National Day Cup fixture promises to be a cracker with two competitive highlights, specifically one of three big thoroughbred races in the capital each season and its Purebred Arabian equivalent. Both races are over 1,600m and carry the same name this year: the Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup.
The thoroughbred version looks particularly competitive with the maximum allowed field of 16 set to face the starter around the sharp, clockwise, Abu Dhabi track.
They include the veteran Forjatt, now a 10-year-old, victorious in the race in 2015 when trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam for Shaikh Ahmad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and seeking to become the third dual winner of a race first contested in 1993. However, Emirates Gold (2007/2008) and Shaikh Ahmad’s Jaasoos (2009/10) both retained the title whereas no horse has regained it since. Chris Hayes, in the saddle for that 2015 victory, is there again for Nicholas Bachalard, who is in his first season as Shaikh Ahmad’s retained trainer at Jebel Ali Stables.
“This was the first real target for him,” said Bachalard. “He has been a great servant to the owner and yard over many years having also won two Jebel Ali Miles, as well as one HH The President Cup. He does not owe anybody anything but seems in good form at home and ready for a run.”
Forjatt has not been seen in public on a racecourse since he was denied a third Jebel Ali Mile (G3) in January by Shamaal Nibras. Owned by Emirates Entertainment Racing Club, Shamaal Nibras was second in the 2016 National Day Cup, having previously won the prep race, which he also did last year but was only fifth in the big race itself. He is one of three runners in this year’s renewal to be saddled by Doug Watson with Muntazah arguably his main hope.
The five-year-old gelded son of Dubawi was ninth in a 1,600m Meydan Dubai World Cup Carnival handicap on his local debut in February before an emphatic 1,400m victory at Abu Dhabi in the President Cup. The Godolphin Mile (G2) on the Dubai World Cup card was his next outing and, racing on a dirt surface for the first time, he excelled when finding only easy winner, Heavy Metal, too good. Retained jockey Dane O’Neill rides.
Runner-up in this last year was Sharpalo, trained by Ahmad Bin Harmash, who saddled Championship to win the 2016 renewal. An excellent second on his seasonal return at Jebel Ali last Friday, he should not be far away under Connor Beasley.
Bin Harmash said: “He was second in this last year without a previous run so, hopefully, that Jebel Ali outing has put him spot on.”