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Round Two Right Down To The Wire

THE ABU DHABI EQUESTRIAN CLUB’S highlight race on Sunday night, the Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown Round 2 (2200m) for four-year-old Purebred Arabians, served up a thrilling finish with Mahbooba just hanging on from Sniper De Monlau who had forfeited considerable ground by drifting to the nearside rail in the straight.

Reigning Champion Jockey Richard Mullen was soon out in front on Mahbooba and, as the runners entered the straight, he committed the filly for home, leaving her closet pursuers in trouble. It was at this point Sniper De Monlau, as he had on both previous career starts, started to edge across the track despite the efforts of his apprentice rider Hector Crouch.

The colt was well adrift 200 metres out but once on the plastic he ran on with purpose, flashing past the post locked together with Mahbooba, though separated by the width of the track.

The judge’s print revealed Mahbooba had just held on by a short-head and has now won both her career starts for owner HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trainer Eric Lemartinel.

“I thought we had won,” said Mullen. “But then I looked at the big screen and the camera was focused on the other horse so I was briefly a bit worried.

“She is a smashing little filly and has shown a great attitude as she had to do it the hard way, from the front.

“I would imagine there is a lot of improvement to come and it was a great spare ride to pick up.”

The win completed a big race double for owner and trainer, set-up two races earlier by Hamza’s total domination of the Prestige Emirates Colts’ Classic (1600m) He too led from start to finish, this time with the season’s leading jockey Tadhg O’Shea performing the steering.

“He is an uncomplicated horse to ride and it is nice to get his head back in front,” said O’Shea. “He has actually won pretty easily because he was flicking his ears and almost waiting for the others in the straight.

“He is still learning and remains a bit immature, especially at the business end so, hopefully will have more to come next season.”

HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum added to his domination of the season’s Owner’s Championship supplying both first and second in the only Thoroughbred race on the card, the Abu Dhabi Championship Prep (2200m) . His retained jockey Paul Hanagan partnered the winner Khusoosy, making a local debut for trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, with O’Shea aboard the runner-up, the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Mustahdaf.

The second led from over 500 metres out but Hanagan’s mount responded to his rider’s urgings and, challenging on the rail, hit the front with 200 metres left to run going on win comfortably.

“We liked this horse a lot when he was in England,” said Hanagan. “Most of his best form was on the all-weather so returning to turf was a slight question mark but he has travelled so strongly I was never worried.”

The Helal Al Alawi-trained Marbouh won the opening Mussafah Maiden (1600m), though his ultimate success was a lot less clear cut than appeared likely at the top of the straight.

Having tracked the pace under Crouch, he set sail for home as the leading group rounded the final bend. Three or four lengths clear halfway up the straight, the gelding tired but had just enough in the tank to deny Cristal Des Vialettes. The final verdict was a short-head.

“He was beaten a nose on debut and deserved this win,” said Crouch. “We travelled strongly throughout the early stages but we hit the line just in time in the end as he was tiring and, perhaps, getting a bit lonely.”

Al Alawi completed a double when Royston Ffrench-ridden Al Shabab led close home in the evening’s edition of the Wathba Stud Farm Cup (1200m) denying AF Maqayes who had looked likely to land the spoils and provide O’Shea with a double on the card in the process.

Mullen had more luck recording a brace in the concluding Al Danah Handicap (2200m) aboard the Abdallah Al Hammadi-trained Sataar Al Reef.

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