Racing at Al Ain on Friday is officially highlighted by a 1400m handicap which appears ultra-competitive having attracted a capacity field of 15, including AF Motaghatres, to be saddled by Ernst Oertel for his main patron Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and to be partnered by the owner’s retained jockey, local champion Tadhg O’Shea.
Homebred, the 7-year-old entire has four victories to his name, all on turf, and will be attempting to open his dirt tally at the ninth attempt. He has, however, finished second in half his eight previous attempts, most recently in the 1700m GCC Cup last February. He was then third, over 1800m, at Jebel Ali.
O’Shea said: “He has yet to win on dirt, but continually runs well on it, so hopefully that breakthrough is not far away.”
Runner-up over 1200m at Sharjah on debut, he then filled the same berth in a 1600m Al Ain maiden won by RB Grynade, one of two in Friday’s race set to be saddled by Eric Lemartinel.
Seeking a fifth career success for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he will be ridden by apprentice Hugo Lebouc with Fabrice Veron seemingly preferring the chances of stable companion Maqam. Homebred, the 5-year-old entire has carried the silks of Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan to victory twice, in a 1200m maiden on dirt at Sharjah and a month later in the 1400m Abu Dhabi Colts Classic on the capital’s turf.
Al Ajban Stables and Abdallah Al Hammadi are proving a prolific partnership this season and rely on Officer who posted his only career victory to date, on his second career start, in an Al Ain maiden over 1800m in early January 2019. A 6-year-old entire and the mount of Antonio Fresu, he has not fired in two previous starts this season, but those efforts should have put him spot on for this.
In a wide-open feature, JAP Aneed, for Royston Ffrench, Irfan Ellahi and Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, was second in the 1800m Al Ain Derby on his only previous visit in March and will be having just a sixth career outing and second this season. His is just another name to consider.
The only Thoroughbred contest, a 1600m handicap, has also attracted the maximum field allowed of 15 and looks typically competitive for such a race.
The Ali Rashid Al Rayhi team have been in great form and from his three runners Sandro Paiva, based with the trainer, partners joint top weight Faith And Fortune, the only course and distance winner in the field. That was on his penultimate start, in early December, when the 5-year-old Cityscape gelding was again partnered by Paiva.
Another yard going well is that of Salem bin Ghadayer and he saddles Lahmoom, the only other course winner among the 15 having shed his maiden tag in a 1600m handicap three starts ago, on seasonal debut at the end of October. Royston Ffrench, in the saddle then, rides the 5-year-old Exchange Rate gelding for the first time since.