17 February 2019, Abu Dhabi, UAE ~ Racing at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on Sunday evening, 17 February 2019 was completely dominated by owner and breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda who, remarkably, was responsible for all five Purebred Arabian winners, four carrying his colours and trained by Ernst Oertel.
The opening 1400m handicap, which actually started an hour late with the meeting delayed by technical issues, was won in style by AF Motaghatres, ridden by Antonio Fresu and another winner for the irrepressible pairing of Ernst Oertel and owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. Held up in midfield by Fresu, the 5-year-old made stealthy progress leaving the back straight to emerge on the heels of the leaders. Once in front 350m out, he was never going to be caught, registering his fourth career win, third this season and number three over course and distance, having also won over 1600m in December. All four victories have been posted here at Abu Dhabi.
Fresu said: “He is just a lovely horse and always seems to run particularly well at this track. I was second on him over course and distance last time but he has always travelled better today perhaps there was a bit more juice in the ground. When I asked him to quicken, he did so impressively, so I have to be very happy with him and the outcome.”
Owner and trainer were soon celebrating a double with Tadhg O’Shea, retained by Al Nabooda but only fifth in the opener on his AF Asheham, choosing the right one this time with AF Makerah taking the 1600m handicap relatively comfortably. Held up in the middle of the 13 runners, the 6-year-old mare was driven to the front early in the straight, after which she always looked likely to register a third career success and second over course and distance this season.
A rueful O’Shea said: “I picked the wrong one on the first race, which is just one of those things, but I thankfully made the right choice this time. This filly ran a very good second last time and she has probably just reproduced that level of form. She is a lovely filly; very honest and genuine, so that always makes my job easier and she deserved to get her head back in front.”
O’Shea promptly completed a double and treble for owner and trainer with the smooth success of AF Mouthirah in the Emirates Fillies Classic, a 1600m race for 4-year-old fillies foaled locally and carrying Prestige status. Winner of her only previous start four weeks ago in the Emirates Fillies Classic, also a Prestige event over the Abu Dhabi 1600m, she was always traveling best of the 16 runners. Once sent to the front by O’Shea, was never going to be beaten.
“She is just a lovely and classy filly,” O’Shea said: “We had a disadvantageous wide draw but the race was run at a lovely even gallop and she was always going well within herself. When we hit the front, she pricked her ears and had a good luck around but when the second closed she just galloped away in the style of a nice filly. Credit to Ernst because he always said she was a bit special and she has proved it now twice now the track.”
Oertel added: “I am just very lucky, especially to train for this owner who has so many nice horses. It has been a great start to the evening.”
Al Nabooda then completed what is almost certainly an unprecedented quartet when AF Saab ran out the smooth winner of the 1600m Emirates Colt Classic, another Prestige race. Like the first three winners, the 4-year-old was bred by Al Nabooda, but having landed the 1400m Abu Dhabi Colts Classic for his breeder and Oertel, he is now running for Musabbeh Al Mheiri under the ownership of His Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Ridden by the owner’s retained jockey, Jim Crowley, he always looked to have the measure of his six rivals and basically cantered to the front leaving the home turn before storming clear to win by nine lengths.
He was actually chased home by AF Alwajel, ridden by O’Shea for Oertel and Al Nabooda, the pair who also supplied the distant third, AF Al Aassi.
Crowley said: “Obviously, it is the first time I have ridden the horse, so I was not really sure what to expect but I must admit I was quite taken with him because he has traveled around there beautifully and then gone through the gears when I asked him in the straight. Hopefully he is a very nice new horse for the boss because that was a very impressive effort indeed.”
However, O’Shea, Al Nabooda and Oertel did not have too long to wait to make a further visit to the winner’s enclosure with AF Al Montaqem running out the ready winner of a 2200m handicap restricted to those horses in private ownership. Settled in midfield, the 6-year-old making taking progress leaving the back straight. Once hitting the front, he always looked likely to double his career tally having won his penultimate start, a course and distance maiden.
O’Shea said: “As I keep saying, Ernst is a top trainer and has a great team behind him. From the very start of the season the horses have been flying and it is a credit to him and his staff. I will say it again, but I am just the lucky one who gets on them and privileged to ride for Mr Al Nabooda and Ernst.”
Al Nabooda was not represented in the finale, a 2200m handicap and sole Thoroughbred race on the card in which Muqaatil was able to make it three consecutive victories having won over 1400m here at Abu Dhabi last March and his only subsequent outing, his seasonal return, over 2400m on turf at Meydan.