Racing at Al Ain on Friday, the third meeting already in ‘the Garden City’ this season, featured a 1400m handicap which provided the most exciting finish of the evening with ES Nahawand posting a gutsy success under Fernando Jara.
One of four runners locked in battle at the 200m pole, when AF Tathoor cried enough, Jara’s mount had led as the leaders left the home turn, hassled throughout the straight by Pharitz Oubai. The latter may have led briefly with about 180m remaining, and when Opera loomed as a serious challenger. However, ES Nahawand was not for being beaten, fighting grimly to make sure he claimed a fourth career victory and second at Al Ain. The 8-year-old entire also has a pair of Sharjah victories to his name, on his debut in December 2016 and on his seasonal debut at the end of October. The victory also doubled owner Ahmed Mohd Saif Mushed Al Marar’s tally while trainer Mohd Daggash was completing a brace on the card, from his first two runners, from just three in total on the evening.
Jara said: “All credit to the horse because he has really had to battle for that, a very hard fought success. I am not sure if we were headed, but once he was being challenged on both sides, he was determined to win.”
Restricted to horses in private ownership, the opening 2000m handicap was won comfortably by Dalil De Carrrere, continuing the good weekend for Brazilian jockey Bernardo Pinheiro who also landed the first race at Meydan the previous evening, the Group 2 Bani Yas aboard Jayide Al Boraq. Riding on this occasion in the silks of Saif Bakheet Saif Murshed Al Marar for trainer Mohamed Daggash, Pinheiro settled his mount just behind the leaders before navigating an inside route on the home turn, saving valuable ground and hitting the front halfway up the straight. The 7-year-old entire shot clear, breaking the track record and doubling his career haul in the process having won a 2000m Al Ain maiden three weeks ago.
Pinheiro said: “The horse obviously likes it here at Al Ain and we know he stays further, so I was happy to commit about a fair way out fully aware he would keep going all the way to the line.”
An hour later Pinheiro was back in the winner’s enclosure, this time combining with Mahmood Hussain who saddled Pharitz Al Denari to a fairly comfortable victory, a maiden success for owner Yousif Ali Yousuf Alkhaja Al-Ali. Third on his sole previous start, just last Saturday over 1000m here at Al Ain, the 4-year-old colt would have scored more comfortably had he not chosen to wander towards the standside rail entering the final 350m. Once straightened by Pinheiro, connections did not have any further worries as the horse finished strongly.
Pinheiro said: “He ran well last week, staying on nicely over a trip too short. He showed his inexperience here which suggests there is more to come as he gains more experience.”
The Brazilian completed a memorable treble in the finale, a 1000m maiden, when probably never headed aboard AF Lewaa, owned and trained by Qaiss Aboud, doubling his tally in both categories in the process. Quickly away, the 6-year-old, unsuccessful in 11 previous efforts, was gaining a deserved maiden success after finishing second in a virtually identical race, on his debut for Aboud, last Saturday.
That was actually his first appearance since December 2018 when third in another Al Ain 1000m maiden.
Pinheiro said: “It has been a great two days and I have to thank all the owners and trainers who have given me these chances.”
The only Thoroughbred race on the card was a 2000m maiden was turned into a procession by Miracle Maker, one of four 3-year-olds in the field of 12 and confidently ridden by Xavier Ziani for his main employer, Salem bin Ghadayer. Having his eighth career start, fifth on dirt and all locally, the Paynter colt chased the early speed under a motionless Xiani before sweeping to the front fully 700m from home, skipping clear shortly afterwards and then never in any danger thereafter.
Having partnered a first ever UAE winner for owner Faiuz Jamil Al Turkumani, Ziani said: “I rode him first time this season at Jebel Ali and we went to fast. The 1400m was too short last time.
“He was a big baby last season and has matured a lot over the winter. We though the Al Ain conditions would suit him as his best runs last season were at Meydan; both are flat tracks.
“As he gets older and experience, hopefully, he will continue to improve and could be a fun horse to have in the yard.”
A 1600m maiden for 3-year-olds only attracted the maximum allowed field of 15, but the majority may as well have stayed at home with only a handful of the runners ever really able to get involved. Continuing the South American rider theme, it was Argentine Jesus Rosales who was celebrating after producing Oss with a decisive challenge 300m from home, the pair soon hitting the front and crossing the line almost three lengths clear of the field. Patiently ridden by Rosales, who settled him in fifth or sixth, the rear of the small group that ever really counted in the race, they made smooth progress before storming clear to record an impressive victory for Abdallah Al Hammadi and his main patron, Al Ajban Stables.
As with Pharitz Al Denari 30 minutes earlier, Rosales and his mount had finished third on debut just six days earlier, in his case over the same 1600m. Rosales said: “It was a good first effort last weekend and he learned plenty because he was quite professional today.”
After 24 defeats, AF Almahjaz finally managed to get his head in front, ultimately winning quite cosily in a 1000m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE. A 9-year-old gelding, he is owned and trained by Khalifa Al Neyadi. Never far off the speed under Omani apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi, he was never going to be denied his moment of glory once hitting the front just under 200m out, powering home to the obvious delight of connections.
In doing so, he bettered his previous career highlights, four runner-up finishes as well as finishing third five times and Al Neyadi said: “He was a good second over 1400m at Jebel Ali last Friday, so we knew he was in good form and hoped this flat 1000m would suit him. Happily it did!”