A LANDMARK SEASON for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, the prominent local owner-breeder, continued when he linked with two former UAE champion trainers to celebrate a three-timer at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club’s meeting in the nation’s capital on Sunday evening.
Al Nabooda’s tally for the campaign so far is now17, already his best result of the past five seasons and more than triple the final score of last term.
AF Tawaq and AF Hakeem, both prepared by Ernst Oertel at Dubai’s Desert One stables and AF Maqayes trained at the Meydan complex by Ali Rashid Al Raihe, all paid visits to the Winner’s Circle to complete the treble.
AF Hakeem sprung a surprise in the Al Taweelah Handicap (1600m), the richest race for Purebred Arabians on the card.
Jockey Sam Hichcott had clearly been told to be positive and was intent on wrestling the lead from eventual runner-up Hamza at the end of the first 200 metres.
After setting a good gallop Hitchcott set sail for home on the four-year-old at the top of the straight.
Meanwhile, Hamza’s errant racing manners were presenting his rider, the term’s leading jockey Tadhg O’Shea, with problems galore as he gave away valuable ground.
To add to the Irishman’s woes over the final part of the race Hamza appeared more than content to remain in second and was very reluctant to try and pass.
“On the ratings we had a lot to find,” said Hitchcott. “But fair play to owner and trainer for taking their chance, for a decent pot, in a small field contest. “It was his first try at the trip and he has seen it out well. We actually went pretty quick; I was more of a passenger at one stage but it all worked out well in the end.”
AF Tawaq had laid the foundation for the Oertel brace when landing a back–to-back double on the course with an easy win in the opening Ajban (1600m).
Stepping into conditions company after a course and distance win in maiden grade a fortnight ago, the Richard Mullen-ridden six-year-old led from gate-to-wire reaching the judge nine lengths clear of his nearest pursuer.
“It has been a good few days,” said Mullen, who had ridden a treble at Meydan the previous Thursday and Al Ain’s feature winner a day later. “This is the perfect start to the evening but I did think he was my best chance on the card.
“Ernst has his horses in great form and Mr. Al Nabooda has some nice horses produced through his breeding operation.
“This horse loves bowling along in front and has a high cruising speed. He seems to be improving.”
O’Shea bounced back from earlier disappointments, combining with Al Raihe to present Al Nabooda with his treble, courtesy of another all-the-way victor when AF Maqayes posted a four-and-a-half lengths margin in the meetings edition of the regular Wathba Stud Farm Cup (1200m), a fourth win from just five career starts, in the four-year-old colt’s freshman season of racing.
“He is a bonny little horse and just tries his best all the time,” said O’Shea. “He was actually probably unlucky the time he was beaten but bounced back well at Al Ain last time. “He is genuine and speedy which is always a good combination and he may keep on improving.”
Qatar’s reigning champion jockey Harry Bentley posted a second UAE win in the space of two days partnering Makzon to land the Al Shahamah Handicap (2200m) the night’s Thoroughbred race.
The Ahmad bin Harmash-trained gelding, who went into the race as a maiden, had been second on dirt at Meydan at both of his previous UAE outings since emigrating from the United Kingdom.
What had looked a competitive contest on paper failed to live up to the billing after the four-year-old and eventual third placegetter Invincible Strike were always prominent. Only second home Signs In The Sand made any ground from the rear.
Bentley, who scored on Udododontu for the Godolphin operation at Meydan the previous evening, took his mount to the front 300m out and they galloped relentlessly clear.
“He had a nice light weight and we were well drawn in three so I was keen to get a good position to try and utilise it,”
“It was a decent gallop throughout and I was always happy. He could build on this.”
Al Asayl handler, Eric Lemartinel produced a one-two in the Madinat Zayed Handicap (1600m) when Bedayer Al Asayl, ridden by former UAE champion Wayne Smith landed the spoils defying the more highly fancied Al Yawazi, partnered by O’Shea, who gave vain chase all the way up the straight.
“This mare has travelled really strongly throughout today,” said Smith. “If anything I was going too well and ended up in front sooner than ideal.
“Most of her form is on dirt but she did win her maiden, in 2013, here at Abu Dhabi and actually has now won both her turf starts.”
Smith captured his own double in the finale, the Al Raha Beach (2200m) conditions race aboard the Nacer Samri-trained Gozla’An.