A remarkable sequence for one of the United Arab Emirates’ leading owners may continue when racing resumes at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on Sunday.
A six race card is highlighted by the Group 3 Al Ruwais (1000m) for Purebred Arabians with owner HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan seeking a sixth consecutive victory.
Two of this year’s eight runners will sport his predominantly yellow and green silks, including Sha’Red, outright winner last season, having dead-heated with the same owner’s Rakha in 2014.
Formerly trained by Yoosef Al Blooshi, for whom he won this race, and Majed Al Jahouri, who saddled him to win the 2015 Group 1 Liwa Oasis (1400m), the six-year-old is now in the capable hands of freshman trainer Nacer Samiri whose big race haul in his first season with an UAE licence includes Rounds One and Two of the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge.
The latter was achieved at Meydan on Thursday, with Haajeb, ridden by Wayne Smith and the former champion jockey will link with the stable again to handle Sha’Red who, despite a penalty forcing him to concede weight to his seven rivals, looks the one to beat over the sprint trip.
“He has been running well enough over further,” said Smith. “He is pretty versatile regarding trip but the fact he is proven over the 1000 metres is a big bonus in a race few others are.
“He won the Liwa Oasis as well last season and has a Group One penalty but we have to be very hopeful with the trainer’s horses continuing in good form.”
Stable companion Shateh, to be ridden by reigning Qatar champion jockey Harry Bentley, may loom as a threat. He has been off the track since December 2014 but displayed plenty of dash in his three local starts after arriving from France.
The seven-year-old will be attempting to defend the record of his owner, HE Sheikh Hamdan bin Mansour Al Nahyan whose colours have only been seen on the racecourse twice previously and boast a 100% strike rate.
The Saifaldin Deeb-trained Najem S’Heel is a 1000 metres specialist having won three of his four starts at the trip, but this looks a lot tougher than the handicaps and conditions races he normally contests.
The main support race, the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup (1600m) at Prestige level for Purebred Arabians foaled in the UAE, provides a real opportunity for Abhaar, winner of the race last year, to bounce back to winning ways.
Undefeated in five starts during his debut season last term, the home-bred has failed to score in three outings to date during this campaign.
However, two of those were in Group One company with the other at Group Three level so it is a significant drop in class meeting much lesser opposition.
The season’s leading rider Tadhg O’Shea has been engaged by Al Asayl trainer Eric Lemartinel for the lightly raced five-year-old and the combination will receive almost unanimous support from players of the on-course competitions.
“He should be the one to beat,” said O’Shea. “He has been running well in top races and his looks a great opportunity to give him a bit of a confidence boost, arguably under his optimum conditions.”
Reigning champion jockey Richard Mullen is riding AF Tawaq, for Dubai-based conditioner Ernst Oertel and they appear to be the combination who may benefit if Abhaar fails to fire.
The six-year-old is seeking a course and distance hat-trick following wins in a maiden and a conditions contest, both in good style but Abhaar will be a totally different proposition.
The Al Dhafrah Handicap (2200m), the final race of the evening and the only Thoroughbred race on the programme appears to revolve around the Ahmad bin Harmash-trained Makzon, an impressive course and distance winner, when ridden by Bentley, three weeks ago.
The handicapper reacted with a nine points promotion in the ratings but the gelding has not had much racing and clearly relished the switch to turf on what was his third UAE outing.
Stable jockey Freddy Tylicki will be in the saddle this time.