28 December 2019, Sharjah, UAE ~ The final UAE fixture of 2019 took place at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday, 28 December 2019, highlighted by the HH The Crown Prince of Sharjah Cup, a 1200m Prestige contest for which only those foaled in the UAE are eligible. The race was won in a shocking fashion, as longshot AF Alwajel (AF Al Buraq x Samira De Carrere by Djouras Tu) denied heavily favored ES Ajeeb in the closing stages.
Eight went to post, but even before the halfway stage, it was soon apparent six were competing for third place at best. ES Ajeeb, winner of the inaugural running of the race, was bowling along in front under regular rider Sam Hitchcott. He was chased throughout by Tadhg O’Shea aboard AF Alwajel. With about 300m remaining, Hitchcott started to look agitated aboard ES Ajeeb, carrying a penalty for his 1400m Meydan success in the Group 2 Bani Yas while AF Alwajel drew level with about 150m remaining. Hitchcott’s mount fought back, but O’Shea was not to be denied with a gritty ride. The 4-year-old winning horse provided owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and trainer Ernst Oertel a treble on the card. A homebred, it was career success number three on just his sixth outing. Win time: 1:15:82.
O’Shea said: “He did very well to win impressively last week, having missed the break, and he is a horse we have always really liked. ES Ajeeb is a serious dirt sprinter, so that was an exceptional effort and our horse is improving with experience.”
Al Nabooda added: “I am delighted Tadhg has had a winner on another big afternoon for myself, as well as Ernst and his team. Three winners, including the feature, with horses I have bred is just brilliant for all concerned.
The opening 1700m maiden, restricted to colts and geldings born in the UAE, was dominated by the aforementioned reigning champion connections. Al Nabooda and Oertel supplied first and second with the race between their pair of AF Arrab (Victor Adam(AE), under Antonio Fresu, holding off AF Musannaf and O’Shea. Having his sixth career start, all since the middle of February, the 4-year-old homebred colt had twice finished second over 1600m on the dirt at Al Ain and would still appear to be learning what is required given his errant passage at the top of the straight.
Al Nabooda said: “That is a pleasing result because I bred them both. Well done to Ernst and his team, who do so well with these horses. It was a tough choice for Tadhg, but Antonio has ridden plenty of winners for us as well.”
The following 1700m maiden, also for those foaled locally, was for fillies and mares and connections completed a quick double with debutante AF Mahaleel (Albar Lotois), driven under Fresu to grab the spoils in the final 100m from Nazaa, who had been in the first two throughout under Jesus Rosales.
Al Nabooda said: “Again that is a great result for us all and winning with these homebreds is particularly gratifying and we are all delighted.”
As did the feature, the only Thoroughbred race on the card, the HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup over 2000m carried a prize of AED200,000. It looked competitive on paper, with the maximum allowed field of 16 facing the starter, and it proved to be throughout the majority of the race—until Richard Mullen and Dolmen became involved. Easing into contention from well back, the Satish Seemar trainee swept past stable companion Karaginsky leaving the home turn, soon opening up a decisive advantage over eventual runner-up Big Brown Bear, who stayed on well. The final margin was 5¼ lengths. Philosopher ran on for third, while top-weighted Habah failed to overcome her impost. Owned by Adnan Khan, the 4-year-old winner, a gelded son of Dawn Approach, won a 2000m turf maiden among five starts last season and had finished second on both Jebel Ali starts this season (over 1800m and 1950m.
A 1200m handicap, the fourth race in a row with 16 runners, perhaps did not turn out to be as competitive as predicted with only one horse leading in seasonal debutant Amang Alawda. (ABU ALEMARAT). Forwardly handled throughout by Sandro Paiva, he had disheartened his foes by halfway and held off a brave AF Mozhell by a half-length. Owned by Sheikh Hamed bin Khadim bin Butti and trained by Bakhit Al Ketbi, it was a the horse, having landed victory in a 2000m Sharjah maiden on his third racecourse appearance in January 2018.
Paiva said: “That was a good performance, having not run since the beginning of February. He has shown plenty of early speed today before he stayed on strongly before, understandably, perhaps tiring close home.”
The concluding 2000m handicap and thus the final race staged in the UAE in 2019, went to Al Asayl with Eric Lemartinel saddling Al Jazi (AL NASR) for His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to take the prize in gritty fashion. Settled on the rail in about fifth, Rosales pulled the 7-year-old mare out to challenge entering the straight, the pair hitting the front with about 250m remaining and always likely to deny a final challenge from Maaly Al Reef. The mare has now won on six occasions, once on turf, five on dirt and this was a second Sharjah victory having landed a 1700m handicap here in November 2018.
UAE racing resumes on Thursday, 2 January 2020, at Meydan Racecourse—the first night of the global showcase that is the Dubai World Cup Carnival. The $12.74 million, 10-night DWC Carnival features horses from all over the world competing to earn their way into the world’s richest race day, the $35 million Dubai World Cup card on 28 March 2020.