The 1,700-metre contest has attracted a strong field of 11 runners who will vie for a purse of Dh200,000. Image Credit: Courtesy: Organiser

Dubai: It often pays to think outside the box and an idea that has captured the imagination of the Arabian racing world will come to fruition at the Sharjah Equestrian & Racing Club (SERC) on Saturday with the first running of the GCC Cup, an exclusive race for Purebred Arabians.

The 1,700 metre contest which is the brainchild of Shaikh Abdullah Bin Majid Al Qasimi, President of the SERC, has attracted a strong field of 11 runners who will vie for a purse of Dh200,000.

Restricted to horses foaled within the GCC countries — namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — the GCC Cup will see a quartet of horses representing Arabian powerhouse, Saudi Arabia,

Three are trained by Mutlaq Bin Mashref whose only previous UAE runner, Tallaab Al Khalediah, won last year’s Group 1 Kahayla Classic on the Dubai World Cup card at Meydan last March.

With an official rating of 113, Nader Al Khalediah appears Mashref’s main hope having won his two most recent outings in December and January, both over 1,600m.

Former UAE champion handler Ali Rashid Al Rayhi also looks to have strong claims with Al Zahir, winner of last Sunday’s Group 1 HH The President Cup. Al Rayhi also sends out AF Mahshoum owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance. The six-year-old will be ridden by retained rider Jim Crowley.

Al Rayhi said of Al Zahir: “He ran well for a long way last week and came out of the race in good form. He likes Sharjah, so hopefully can run well again in what looks a strong race.”

Leading Arabian jockey Tadhg O’Shea is aboard AF Maher for top owner Khalid Al Nabooda.

O’Shea said of his chances: “Obviously the conditions suit him, but this is a tough race, especially with the horses from Saudi Arabia, but it is an exciting new initiative and Sharjah should be applauded for creating the concept.”

Frenchman Eric Lemartinel relies on Shaheer who has recorded all three of his career victories on the Abu Dhabi turf in 2015.

Irfan Ellani saddles JAP Yajoud whose three previous trips to the UAE’s saw him finished first, second and third.