The last of the five UAE racecourses to host a fixture this season, Al Ain stages the first of its 12 2019-20 meetings on Thursday with a seven-race card, including just one Thoroughbred contest, a wide-open 1000m handicap slated as the day’s second race and a post time of 5:30 p.m.
The maximum allowed field of 15 declared is led by Rich and Famous, who will be saddled by Salem bin Ghadayer for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. Jockey Royston Ffrench will be in the saddle after having been injured at Abu Dhabi last Friday and subsequently missing Saturday’s meeting at Sharjah.
A 5-year-old gelded son of Bernardini, Ffrench’s mount was bitterly disappointing in his first local campaign last season, finishing nearer last than first on each of his seven outings, but on his seasonal reappearance, he was beaten just a neck in the final strides of a 1400m handicap at Jebel Ali. A half-brother to 2019 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) winner Estihdaaf, the blueblood had clashed heads with top company earlier in his career when with Mark Johnston, including Sir Dancealot and Best Solution and a defeat of subsequent DWC Carnival winner Ekhtiyaar.
Ffrench said: “Obviously it is nice to be back in action and I must thank everyone for all the kind messages and best wishes after last weekend. I am back, raring to go and this horse should go well after his good reappearance. He shows plenty of speed in his work and did so again at Jebel Ali. Hopefully he takes to the Al Ain surface and can run a big race.”
Satish Seemar saddles two with stable jockey Richard Mullen electing to partner One Season, a 1000m winner at Sharjah on his reappearance 12 days ago in a race won last year by stable companion Bedaveeya, eighth in that race this time, and to be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea.
Multicurrency is a first ever UAE runner for trainer Nicole Ruggeri, who trained U.S.-based Purebred Arabian star RB Texas Hold Em to victory in June’s President of the United Arab Emirates Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs. A son of Exchange Rate, cleverly named Multicurrency showed enough ability on occasions during his first UAE campaign last season to suggest he can be competitive under Pat Cosgrave. That said, he remains a maiden after nine starts, two in the UK for David Simcock, seven locally for Helal Al Alawi and has never run over a trip shorter than 1400m.
The other six races are for the Purebred Arabians, with the best offering appearing to be a handicap over 1800m to be contested by a maximum field of 15.
From his Al Asayl base, Eric Lemartinel saddles both Jeemi and RB Grynade, the choice of Fabrice Veron, for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Both merit respect, as does Sufyan, owned by Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan and a first ever Al Ain runner for Ana Mendez, who has made a flying start to her UAE training career.
Ernst Oertel and Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, respective reigning champion trainer and owner, combine with both Raniah and AF Taraha. Champion UAE Jockey Tadhg O’Shea has opted for the latter.
Polish jockey Szczepan Mazur celebrated doubles at both Abu Dhabi and Sharjah last weekend and is aboard Duc de Faust for Royal Cavalry Oman and Ibrahim Al Hadhrami. A 6-year-old gelding, he is yet to win on dirt after six attempts, but ran well here at Al Ain on three of his four previous visits, most recently his latest racecourse appearance in a 1600m conditions race in February.