13 January 2017, Al Ain, UAE ~ Racing at Al Ain Racecourse on Friday was highlighted by the second and middle round of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a 3200m handicap won in dramatic fashion by Balad Al Reef (Bibi De Carrere).
Sporting the colors of Al Ajban Stables and saddled by Abdallah Al Hammadi, he appeared to hold every chance entering the straight under Fernando Jara before drifting across the track to the nearside rail. His chance appeared to have been forfeited with Sheikh Down, Aslaan and Badira De Monlau seemingly fighting out a finish in the middle of the track.
On the rail Jara’s mount responded gallantly to run on and snatch the initiative in the final 200m and, ultimately, win quite easily.
“I did not want to fight him so let him drift left,” said Jara. “Once on the rail he really ran on strongly and won nicely in the end.It was a strong race so that was a good performance. He stayed the trip very well and should get further.”
The opening 1400m handicap, the Wathba Stud Farm Cup for Private Owners Only, was won by the Helal Al Alawi-trained Ameer Al Sraya (Makzan (FR) x Zahbolly DF (US), always traveling well under UAE Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea. He took the win from stablemate Naiem under Patrick Cosgrave leaving Al Muwall’Aa under Goran Mesetovic in third.
“I was fourth on him at Sharjah in November when I thought we were going to win so it is nice to land this one on him. I think the key is in leaving his challenge as late as possible, which I was able to do today. Al Ain has been very lucky for me and this is the perfect start to the meeting.”
O’Shea completed a double with the smooth success of Ifraaj (Zefiro De Nulvi(IT) in a 2000m maiden. Recalcitrant before the race, he was a lot better behaved once the gates went back and won easily for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trainer Eric Lemartinel. The 4-year-old was chased home by stable companions Tashkeel and Moubarak to give the team at Al Asayl Stables a notable 1-2-3.
“We were pretty hopeful coming into the race,” said Lemartinel. “We thought Ifraaj was our best chance, especially over this longer trip and he proved us right.”
Owner and trainer were soon celebrating a double after Gerald Avranche partnered Bainoona (Mahabb) to an ultimately smooth success in a 1600m maiden. Third on her only previous career start behind impressive stable companion Joori just last week here at Al Ain over 1400m, she clearly learned a lot on that occasion.
“She ran very green and was a big baby last week,” said Avranche. “She was a different horse today and did that nicely. We think a lot of her and, hopefully, there is more to come.”
Trained by Ernst Oertel, AF Mashmoum looked all over the winner in a 2000m handicap, until headed in the dying strides by the fast finishing Akbar Du Berlais (Akbar), ridden by apprentice George Buckell and a second winner on the card for trainer Al Alawi.
“He is a bit of a monkey this horse,” said Buckell. “The ability is there but he makes you work hard to tap into it. There is plenty more there and, if he wants, he can progress a lot from this.”
Trainer and jockey later combined again with the ultra-game victory of RB Goliath (Madjani x Burnie Gee PW) in a 1600m handicap. In front quite early in the straight, he was headed by Ashraaf inside the final 200m but fought back to lead where it mattered.
“He showed a great attitude,” said Buckell. “He really battled on in the closing stages and won well enough in the end.”
The only Thoroughbred race was an ultra-competitive 1000m handicap in which Journalisitic tried his best to lead all the way under Ismail Koyuncu. However, they were headed by, first, Expo Twenty and then Tajheez but they were unable to thwart the final challenge of Outrank. Pat Cosgrave rode the winner for Musabbeh Al Mheiri who also saddled runner-up Tajheez to give him a notable 1-2.