Extra Hope Wins Wathba Stud Farm Al Ain Opener
24 November 2017, Al Ain, UAE ~ Friday, 24 November 2017 saw the first meeting of the new season at Al Ain Racecourse highlighted by a 1600m handicap where Eric Lemartinel saddled half of the six runners and recorded a 1-2 for his main employer, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea had to settle for second on RB Rich Surprise, not able to get past stable companion Tahany in that event, partnered by Royston Ffrench.
Lemartinel’s third runner, last year’s winner, Hamza, looked good under Jesus Rosales just as he had done 12 months ago, but the pair were swamped by the winner and runner-up more than 200m out, eventually fading to finish fourth.
At 200 meters, Ffrench and Tahany, the only filly in the field, took up the running and ran on gamely, always looking to be holding the second, despite the frantic urgings of O’Shea.
Ffrench said: “You always know when riding for Eric and Al Asayl, whether you are on the first or third string, you are going into the race with a chance. Eric told me to take my time, track the leaders and challenge in the straight adding I would not be far away, so he was proved right. My season has started very well and long may it continue!”
Patrick Cosgrove steered Djomander Maamora, trained by Al Alawi, into third in the race worth Dhs 100,000.
Al Alawi also won the finale, a 1400m maiden, when Nawwaf KB, despite a slow start, came home in front under Connor Beasley.
Having his fourth start, third locally and first since January, the four-year-old soon made up the ground he lost at the beginning and loomed into contention halfway up the straight.
They hit the front about 150m out, keeping on strongly to land the spoils.
Beasley said: “Obviously the trainer is in superb form and it is great to get a chance to ride a few for him.”
O’Shea brought home Zahee for second, another from the Lemartinel training barn, while Patrick Dobbs was on third, Duc de Faust.
The HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival’s Wathba Stallions Cup For Private Owners Only was the first race on the card with 12 runners vying for a slice of the Dh 80,000 on offer.
Extra Hope (Burning Sand x Triextra (US) by Seyvilla Triumph), owned by Ali Haddad, scored his first win on UAE soil in six starts. The Ernst Oertel-trained AF Mukhifah under Tadhg O’Shea finished second and Baynah under Connor Beasley was third.
The 1000 metre handicap was turned into a procession by the Satish Seemar-trained six-year-old winning mare that put the race to bed just after halfway when scooting clear of her 11 toiling rivals.
This was her first UAE victory on her sixth attempt and second career success having won a 1700m maiden at Delaware Park in her native USA in October 2015.
Mullen said: “I am over the moon to ride a winner for Ali who has been a great supporter of UAE racing for very many years but has not enjoyed much luck recently. He is always smiling though and is an absolute pleasure to ride for. It is also good to see our horses hitting form after a winner at Meydan last night and now this one. Hopefully there are plenty more to follow.”
After drawing a rare blank at Meydan on Thursday, the flourishing partnership of Pat Cosgrave and Helal Al Alawi combined for their eighth success of the campaign when RB Fired Up led close home in the UAE Martyrs handicap over 1800m.
Making only his second start locally, having won once in the US, the winner looked likely to score easily early in the straight but ultimately, had to work hard to pass AF Tathoor, only leading close home. Meydan Du Paon finished well to snatch second from a tiring AF Tathoor.
Cosgrave said: “Royston Ffrench rode this fellow the other day and said he needed the run so would have a big chance today. Happily, he was correct. This horse should improve again as he has done that tidily enough and battled when I needed him to.”
Trainer and jockey wasted no time in completing a double with the hard fought success of Astral Du Loup in the following 1600m maiden. Like all 15 runners making his debut, Astral Du Loup needed rousting from the off by Cosgrave to secure a position just behind the leaders.
Still hard at work on the home turn, Cosgrave was able to conjure a telling challenge from his mount with the pair hitting the front about 50m from the line.
“The horses are running very well and Pat, as we all know, is a top jockey,” said Al Alawi. “We like this horse and he will improve now he has had a run so it was great he won.”
Birthday boy Antonio Fresu celebrated his big day with an easy victory aboard AF Abahe in a 1600m maiden, the pair going one better than they had at Sharjah 13 days ago.
Trained by Ernst Oertel for Champion Owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, the four-year-old, also runner-up over this course and distance in March, lost his maiden tag at the sixth attempt.
Fresu said: “I would have won easily on him at Sharjah last time but he was hanging right which cost him the race. He was still hanging right today but Al Ain is clockwise so it was not such a problem. He is still a big baby and will be better with more racing.”