The penultimate Jebel Ali fixture of 2018 on Friday afternoon, a 1600m conditions race restricted to 3-year-olds, was won emphatically by Draco, who was never headed under Chris Hayes for racecourse patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Trained on the Jebel Ali track by Nicholas Bachalard, Draco had impressed when winning a similar conditions event on his local debut over 1400m a month ago, but seemingly built on that here, under a penalty for that victory, to land the spoils and maintain his unbeaten UAE record.
A 3-year-old Astrology colt, he has actually won his three most recent starts having landed a maiden over 1100m at Gulfstream Park on his third and final US outing in September last year. Always racing generously for Hayes, he was only asked for an effort entering the final 400m, quickening stylishly and his jockey was able to glance over his shoulder at the 200m pole, by which time the race was effectively over.
Hayes, who sadly missed the win a month ago due to a family bereavement, was clearly impressed and enthused: “It was my first time riding him in a race, so we decided this morning to ride him positively to see if he actually stays the 1600m and he certainly has because I could not pull him up. What really impressed me though was his attitude because he is so relaxed but then, when I asked him, he really quickened in style. He is a lovely horse with loads of options, be it the Jebel Ali Mile or perhaps Meydan and the Dubai World Cup Carnival, but that will be for the trainer to decide.”
A good quality 1400m handicap looked competitive on paper but that proved not to be the case with only two of a final field of ten, after both Lytham St Annes and Final Reckoning were withdrawn at the start, ever really looking like winning. Well away, Tadbir was sent straight to the head of affairs by Dane O’Neill with Rocket Power and Connor Beasley in their slipstream. With most rivals beaten off just after halfway, Beasley rousted his mount to lead about 425m from home and they never looked likely to be denied with a game effort.
Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash for Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, the winning 5-year-old Kyllachy gelding was a course winner in a 1600m handicap a fortnight ago and this was his fourth career and third local success, having also landed a 1200m handicap here at Jebel Ali in March 2017.
“We had a nice low weight and came here pretty confident we could make the most of it,” Beasley said. “This horse obviously really likes it here at Jebel Ali and that is two good wins this season. The yard have been in great form throughout and we have to hope we can continue in a similar vein with the Carnival just around the corner.”
A second Jebel Ali Purebred Arabian contest of the season, a 1600m conditions race, was a thriller with Foaad and Al Muhalhal Al Thani, who had shared the lead pretty much from the outset, crossing the line locked together having duelled throughout the majority of the 900m straight. Foaad probably exited the home turn with a slight advantage but was passed by Al Muhalhal Al Thani with about 750m remaining, but fought back to regain the initiative nearing the 300m pole.
However, that rival was not going to concede defeat and, under a strong drive from Szczepan Mazur, put his head back in front close home to snatch victory for trainer Younis Al Kalbani and owner Alwarith Ibrahim Al Hadhrami, establishing a new Purebred Arabian track record in the process.
It was a second career victory for the 5-year-old who landed a 1200m maiden at Sharjah last November. His impressed jockey said: “That was a good performance because the runner-up is decent and we went pretty quick throughout. My horse has really battled hard and responded every time I asked him, so deserves a lot of credit.”
The longest race on the card, over the stamina-sapping 1950m, was a handicap and won convincingly by Cape Of Eagles, saddled by Helal Al Alawi and confidently ridden by Billy Lee for owner Saleh Omar Ali bin Haidar. A 4-year-old Cape Blanco colt, he started the campaign as a maiden before winning a Jebel Ali maiden over 1800m at the very first meeting of the season on his debut for Al Alawi having previously been trained by Fawzi Nass. Well beaten over that course and distance four weeks ago by Hello, who was fifth on this occasion, he was settled just off the pace set by Piepowder Court before cruising past that rival with almost 600m still to run. Lee was sat motionless and the pair never looked in danger of being caught though the horse was seemingly tiring in the final 100m.
Lee said: “Basically everything went right this afternoon and I was able to get a nice lead for a long way before quickening to the front. He has then stayed on well and won quite comfortably. He clearly likes it here at Jebel Ali and is a young horse who hopefully is still improving.”
The 1600m handicap was run at a scorching gallop with Team Meeting and Sam Hitchcott a dozen lengths clear at halfway. The lead dwindled throughout the entirety of the long Jebel Ali straight before they were finally collared by Fernando Jara and Still Life with about 125m remaining. Team Meeting weakened dramatically up the hill to finish sixth. Jara’s mount held off the late challenge of Initial to double his career tally on his 17th start, having previously landed a 1700m Sharjah handicap in January.
“The horses have been running well all season and that fast gallop has suited Still Life,” Al Rayhi said. “That was a very good ride from Fernando who has timed his challenge perfectly.”
Jara added: “He broke well today and I was always happy as the pace was very quick and we know he stays further so it suited him.”
The 1600m maiden was won in dogged fashion by Mandolin Lullaby, who—under Xavier Ziani— was left in front on the home turn when early leader Soy Britanico failed to handle the bend under Jara, throwing away his chance in the process. Ziani’s mount galloped on relentlessly, losing her maiden tag at just the second attempt having been beaten more than 50 lengths in a 2000m maiden at Meydan on debut last Thursday. Owned by Hamad Rashed bin Ghadayer and trained by Sandeep Jadhav, the 3-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute had weakened quickly at halfway after leading early on in that Meydan race and clearly learned a lot from that experience.
Having just his fourth career start and third locally, all this season, Beachcomber Bay was another winner on the card who was never headed, proving far too good for eight rivals in the finale, a 1200m maiden. Richard Mullen was in the saddle for Satish Seemar and AC Ellington, making it third time lucky and opening his account as an owner having seen Beachcomber Bay, a 3-year-old gelded son of Invincibe Spirit finish third, then second, in maidens over 1400m and 1200m at Meydan.