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Shamaal Nibras better with age in Jebel Ali Classic

Friday’s final meeting of the 11 staged at Jebel Ali this season was highlighted by the Jebel Ali Classic (Silver Jubilee), a 1400m conditions race and having won the inaugural edition in 2017, Shamaal Nibras regained the crown with a smooth success to maintain trainer Doug Watson’s record of landing the race each year, having also won it last year with Cosmo Charlie. Settled nearer first than last by stable jockey Pat Dobbs, who was actually winning the race for the first time with Tadhg O’Shea aboard two years ago and Sam Hitchcott having ridden Cosmo Charlie, the 10-year-old First Samurai gelding crept closer at halfway before sent to the front at the 300m.

Bochart, soon in front under Richard Mullen fought well, but the veteran was always holding on, to the delight of Watson and owners EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing), for whom he has now won six times. He also previously won last year’s Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile, the biggest race at the track all season. He was second in the same race this year before finishing third in the Listed Jebel Ali Stakes over 1950m.

Watson said: “I am delighted with that for everybody involved, especially the owners, as well as for my staff at home, because this is a real favourite in the yard and just a pleasure to train. He does seem to save his very best for Jebel Ali, but has won for us at Abu Dhabi twice and been placed there in a National Day Cup for the syndicate.”

EERC spokesman, Justin Byrne, added: “That is actually winner 80 for the syndicate and one of our best servants has achieved it which is perfect. We need to decide whether he stays here to race next season with two or three runs or, perhaps has a run in England and retires. We will sort that out later and enjoy today first!”

Jockey and trainer were celebrating a double an hour later after the inaugural running of a 3-year-old fillies’ conditions race in which they combined with Habah, previously a maiden after four starts but who had been competing in good company and, having not previously tasted victory, receiving weight from both Starry Eyes and Salayel, who chased her home. A daughter of Twirling Candy, she ran twice as a juvenile before finishing sixth in the Listed UAE 1000 Guineas after which she produced an even better effort when fourth, beaten six lengths, in the Group 3 UAE Oaks. In the colours of Ali A Aneizi, Dobbs always looked confident with his filly, always travelling best before effortlessly taking the initiative with about 275m remaining, passing a stubborn Starry Eyes.

“She is a nice filly who has just kept improving, physically and mentally,” Dobbs said. “When I hit the front, she idled and ran very green, so there should be more to come from her.”

Eight went to post for a 1200m conditions contest but only one ever really mattered with High on Life and Royston Ffrench able to give weight and a sound beating to seven rivals. Having shot from the stalls, the 8-year-old gelded son of Invincible Spirit, trained by Salem bin Ghadayer for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, was untroubled and quickening clear with 350m still to run.

Ffrench said: “We had the perfect draw on that rail and this horse, like so many, just goes really well here on the straight Jebel Ali track.”

When O’Shea sent AF Al Jahed for home fully 700m out in the opener, a Purebred Arabian conditions race over 1800m, the race looked all over with the pair skipping many lengths clear with the prize seemingly theirs for the taking. However, having led from the outset, about 150m from the winning post the early exertions began to take their toll with eventual third, Dassan Da, closing fast down the centre of the track but never quite able to get there. Widest of all, Magic Number and Fernando Jara flew in the final 100m but, to the delight of O’Shea, riding for his main employer Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and trainer Ernst Oertel, the line appeared just in time.

Homebred by Al Nabooda, the 7-year-old was recording a seventh career victory, sixth on dirt and fourth at Jebel Ali where he was wining for the second time this year having also won over 1400m, from Dassan Da, on his penultimate start. Al Nabooda, almost guaranteed to be crowned champion owner for the season time, said: “This horse loves it here at Jebel Ali and, as I have been saying all season, I am very lucky to have Ernst Oertel as my main trainer and to be able to retain Tadhg O’Shea as jockey.”

Confidently ridden by Pat Cosgrave, Craving ran out the cosy winner of a 1600m handicap, the pair finding a lovely seam on the rail at the 300m pole when they hit the front always looked to have the race in safekeeping.

Never worse than fifth, settled just behind the early leaders, Cosgrave elected to wait for a gap and was rewarded when it appeared, his mount quickening through it stylishly to record a fourth career victory and second in the UAE having made a winning local debut, over this same 1600m, in January. Owned by Sultan Ali and only a 4-year-old, the Equiano colt was a close fourth over 1600m on his first look at Meydan before a disappointing effort over that same course and distance.

Cosgrave said: “That was the first time I have ridden but he clearly likes it here and is unbeaten at the track having run here twice. I am not sure what happened last time but his first Meydan outing was also a good one and he is clearly happy racing on dirt surfaces.”

The longest race on the card, a 1950m handicap, provided Gavroche the perfect opportunity to record a second course and distance victory this season, third in total and fifth Jebel Ali success having also won twice over 1800m. Owned by Al Bait Mutawahed Team, the 8-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor was formerly trained by Satish Seemar, but is now in the care of Musabbeh Al Mheiri, for whom he has posted all five of his local victories dating back to a victory over 1800m in February 2017.

Settled in midfield by Elione Chaves, a multiple champion jockey in Sweden, in a race at least half of the 12 runners appeared in contention with 400m remaining, the pair hit the front soon afterwards and never looked likely to be denied.

“I ride this horse every morning and he is a favourite of mine, “Chaves said. “He takes a bit of knowing because he can be tricky at home but in a race he is pretty straight-forward and always tries his best.”

The Jebel Ali season concluded with a 1000m handicap in which Raafid devoured the rising ground over the final 300m to snatch the spoils with Dane O’Neill aboard for his main employer His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
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