20 December 2019, Sharjah, UAE ~ Sharjah Longines Racecourse stages its third and by far best meeting of the season so far on Saturday, 21 December 2019, highlighted by two AED100,000 Prestige handicaps, with the 1700m HE Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup being contested for the second time. The inaugural edition last year was won by AF Maher, subsequently twice victorious in Group 1 company over 2000m at Meydan, landing both Al Maktoum Challenge R3 and Dubai Kahayla Classic.
Representing AF Maher’s connections, UAE champions Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, Ernst Oertel and Tadhg O’Shea, AF Motaghatres, (AF Al Buraq) will seek a first dirt victory at the fifth attempt having finished runner-up three times, including over course and distance.
He does have four turf victories to his name, whereas stable companion AF Al Jahed from the same sire, the mount of Antonio Fresu, has registered five of his six career wins on dirt surfaces and on his only previous Sharjah visit was second over this track and trip.
“It was certainly not an easy choice, but they have both run twice this season, albeit on turf at Abu Dhabi, with AF Motaghatres finishing in front of AF Al Jahed when they clashed in the first of those starts,” O’Shea said. “There is nothing between them on their work and it is nice for the team to have two live chances in a good race.”
The pair may have competition from RB Rich Surprise (TH Richie) and Bainoona (Mahabb), looking to better their records over this 1700 metres.
Al Asayl trainer Eric Lemartinel celebrated a double at Abu Dhabi last Sunday, both ridden by Fabrice Veron, and they combine with Bainoona, victorious in a 1600m apprentice’s handicap at Abu Dhabi, when AF Al Jahed was seventh, on her sole start this season. She is owned by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan as is Lemartinel’s second runner, Jaahiz (TH Richie), that will be ridden by Jesus Rosales.
Over 1200m, the inaugural HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup, looks wide open as O’Shea has opted to partner AF Alwajel (AF AL Buraq) from two representing the Al Nabooda-Oertel combination, with Szczepan Mazur aboard stable companion AF Mouthirah (AF Al Buraq).
Veron rides Al Jazi (Al Nasr), the sole runner for the Al Asayl team and a very capable 7-year-old mare who has won five times, three last season, including over 1700m here at Sharjah.
For Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, Irfan Ellahi saddles JAP Yajoud (AF Maqam Alezz), the mount of Royston Ffrench and winner of a 1700m Sharjah maiden in January 2018 and arrives here having won his seasonal reappearance at Al Ain over 1400m a month ago.
The only Thoroughbred contest is a 1200m handicap in which the weights are headed by Dangerous Thought with Sam Hitchcott aboard for Doug Watson. After 27 career starts the 6-year-old has just one win to his name, over this course and distance in February.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Rich and Famous looks another to consider with Royston Ffrench riding for Salem bin Ghadayer.