TWELVE MONTHS AGO, Thakif and jockey Harry Bentley crossed the line first in the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club’s AED3,000,000 Group 1 Purebred Arabian HH The President Cup (2200m), chased home by Abu Alabyad.
Thakif subsequently lost the race with Abu Alabyad promoted to first following a Stewards’ inquiry.
History repeated on Sunday evening in the UAE capital when the Nacer Samiri-trained Thakif held off his old rival to win the 2016 renewal by half a length providing his owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan with a third win in the race in four years.
Drawn 14 in a full field of 16, Bentley was soon able to get a good position in behind the early speed, which was frantic, with first Namrood and then Shaheer, stable companions of Abu Alabyad, setting a searing gallop.
The eight-year-old was poised just behind the pace when Shaheer cried enough on the home turn and 400 metres out was sent for home opening a large gap on his rivals.
Abu Alabyad gave chase, but never looked likely to bridge the gap to the obvious delight of the winning jockey.
“This is horse is really special to me and this brings back memories of 12 months ago,” said Bentley. “Any jockey will tell you we need good horses to get ourselves noticed and Thakif has been a big help to me. “He is so versatile regarding trip and stayed really well tonight. I thought 2200m stretched him but he was still going at the line.We had a bad draw so it was important to get a good position. Once we did, I was always happy. As he has aged he has become more straightforward for a jockey and this was a top performance.”
The meeting also featured the Thoroughbred version of HH The President Cup (1400m), a Listed contest which fell for the fourth consecutive season to a horse owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
Ghaamer, handled by the owner’s retained jockey, Paul Hanagan, lifted the prize after leading nearly all the way.
Having wrestled the early initiative from Jayed Jidan, they never really saw another rival with Hanagan setting sail for the judge at the top of the straight.
It was left to the South African-trained challenger Zahee and Forjatt, attempting to add this race to his National Day Cup victory, to try and throw down late challenges but they had to settle for second and third respectively.
Ghaamer follows in the hoofprints of Alazeyab, Nawwaar, also ridden by Hanagan, and Ertijaal who won the last three renewals for owner and trainer.
“That is the way he likes to be ridden and he relaxes nicely when out in front,” said Hanagan. “We were pestered for the lead in the very early stages but, once we were in front, he has just settled into a lovely rhythm. He has been a great servant to Sheikh Hamdan and the team over the years and it is great to win a big race on him for the boss. We are all enjoying a great season.”
Though out of luck in the feature with Abu Alabyad, jockey Gerald Avranche and trainer Eric Lemartinel had earlier combined to capture the Emirates Fillies’ Classic (1600m) with impressive debutante Al Jazi.
Settled in midfield, she made eye-catching progress before hitting the front 300 metres out and posting a smooth success.
“She is a very nice filly and you have to be impressed,” said Avranche. “She has had a few problems and only had one serous gallop so is nowhere near 100% fit. We hope she has a big future as there should be a lot more to come from her.”
Al Jazi is owned by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as is Molahen El Alhan who made all under the season’s leading rider Tadhg O’Shea in the concluding Al Hosn Handicap (1600m) providing the owner and Lemartinel with doubles.
Trainer Musabah Al Muhairi and stable jockey Fernando Jara continued the successful alliance they forged at the beginning of the current campaign when Love To Dance won the opening Muroor Handicap (1200m).
Quickly out of the stalls, the grey mare soon led and had most of her 11 rivals in trouble at halfway before staying on strongly to take the prize.
It was a second consecutive win for the five-year-old after success on the Al Ain dirt two weeks ago.
“She has a lot of natural speed,” said Jara. “She enjoys being out in front and we know stays 1200 metres so I was always pretty confident.”
Sharjah based trainer Saifaldin Deeb and jockey Sam Hitchcott added to their season’s totals when Dere’A Al Jazeera scored in the night’s version of the regular Wathba Stud Farm Cup (1400m).