Sharjah: The second running of the HH Sheikh Manzoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup, a 1,200m prestige handicap for horses foaled in the UAE, is the highlight of the six-race card scheduled for Sharjah Racecourse on Saturday afternoon.
Fourteen have been declared, including a pair of five-year-old mares to be saddled by Ernst Oertel for champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. They combined with the owner’s retained jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, to win the inaugural edition 12 months ago with recent National Day Cup hero AF Alwajel.
Second on that occasion was AF Mouthirah, ridden by Szczepan Mazur, but to be partnered this time by Richard Mullen with O’Shea opting to ride stable companion AF Taghzel. “It was not an easy choice because both have run well at Sharjah in the past,” O’Shea said. “AF Mouthirah is returning from a break of 10 months whereas AF Taghzel has two outings under her belt this season, so should be spot on for Saturday.”
Mazur combines with Irfan Ellahi, a trainer whose horses normally relish Sharjah, but who is making a belated start to the current campaign, with JAP Aneed, seeking a second career success on what will be just his fifth start. A 1,200m turf winner on debut, the four-year-old was second over 1,800m in the Al Ain Derby on his sole dirt outing.
Fernando Jara is aboard dirt debutant Jawaal, who will attempt to concede weight to his 13 rivals for Majed Al Jahoori and Al Wathba Racing. A four-year-old, he has won once from six starts, all on the Abu Dhabi turf, landing the 1,600m Emirates Colts Classic, a prestige contest, in February.
The six-year-old AF Ramz was a 1,600m Al Ain winner just last Saturday for Khalifa Al Neyadi and again has the assistance and valuable weight allowance of Omani apprentice Saif Al Balushi.
Another arriving on the back of an Al Ain victory, in his case a 1,400m handicap three weeks ago, is eight-year-old ES Nahawand for Mohamed Daggash. With regular jockey Jara unavailable, the in-form Bernardo Pinheiro takes over in the saddle. The Brazilian jockey said: “The season has gone great so far, and let us hope that continues! ES Nahawand looks a nice spare ride in an open race, arrives in winning form and is a winner at Sharjah in the past.”
For Ahmed Al Shemaili, Antonio Fresu is aboard AF Metawed, another making his seasonal debut whereas Maqam will be having his third start of the ongoing season. A four-year-old colt, to be saddled by Eric Lemartinel for Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan, the latter, the mount of Fabrice Veron, won a 1,200m Sharjah maiden last November, so conditions clearly suit him.
Equally competitive is the only Thoroughbred race, also a handicap over 1,200m with Satish Seemar responsible for four of the 11 declared runners, Richard Mullen choosing to partner Bedaveeya, a 1,000m Sharjah winner in October 2018. A six-year-old Tizway mare, that remains her sole victory after 15 starts.
Stable companion One Season, the mount of apprentice Nathan Crosse is also a 1,000m course winner, in his case 13 months ago when doubling his career tally, having made a winning racecourse debut as a two-year-old over 1,400m at Meydan in December 2017.