Ajjaj Commands Field In Final Leg of Marathon in Al An

Ajjaj takes 5100m Marathon Series third leg in Al Ain Season Finale

Ajjaj by Andrew Watkins

December ’17 file by Andrew Watkins

16 March 2018, Al Ain, UAE ~ The 16 March 2018, The Al Ain race course season closing card featured the final leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a 5100m Prestige handicap which turned into a procession by Ajjaj, never headed under Adrie de Vries.

In a virtual carbon copy of their victory in the 4100m third round a month ago, the pair were soon clear, passing the winning post this time with about 20 lengths in hand of the remaining quintet. Seemingly given a breather with about 2000m to run when his rivals perhaps closed to within eight lengths, Ajjaj (TAHAR DE CANDELON) was then again encouraged by De Vries with the pair again holding a commanding lead and, from 1600m out, there was only ever going to be one winner.

Trained by Jean de Roualle for Yas Horse Racing Management and completing separate doubles for both owner and jockey, he delighted his trainer who said: “This horse is improving all the time and, again, has been given a great ride by Adrie. We knew he would be very hard to beat today and, again, I have to thank His Highness Sheikh Mansour for the opportunity to train these lovely horses.

Also carrying Prestige Status, the 1800m Al Ain Derby always looked likely to revolve around one horse, the undoubtedly gifted but not always straightforward ES Ajeeb (Big Easy), and so it proved.

Winner of a Sharjah maiden by 19 lengths in January, he then landed the Listed Arabian Triple Crown R1 over 1600m in Abu Dhabi. However, he then blotted his copybook when, with the race at his mercy, he unseated Sam Hitchcott, aboard for both those victories, in HH The Ruler Of Sharjah Cup.

With Hitchcott again in the saddle, he was well away here and soon held a commanding advantage from 13 rivals who were never able to come near enough to land a blow. Kept up to his work halfway up the straight by his jockey, he never gave his trainer Ibrahim Aseel a moment of worry.

This is a very special horse, a very good one and we do not know what he might achieve because he is still learning,” Aseel said: “We are a small yard with not that many horses so to have a horse like this is brilliant for us.”

The only Thoroughbred contest, was a 1600m handicap and it provided an absolutely thrilling finish for Darkening under Adrie De Vries with no less than four runners looking likely the winner at some stage throughout the final 150m.

Helal Al Alawi and Pat Cosgrave have proved a formidable combination all season and introduced debutant Shaddad Al Wathba (Bibi De Carrere) running out the impressive winner of the 1400m maiden. He is owned by Yas Horse Racing Management as is second home Khafed Al Wathba under Richard Mullen for Elise Jeanne.

Al Alawi, who trains on the outskirts of Al Ain, said: “We were quite hopeful because we think this is a nice, young, horse. His work had been good so it is very pleasing to see him win that well and it is nice to see them do it on the track. We have had a very good season, our best, which was the target at the start of the campaign.”

The best of two 1800m handicaps was won in style by Fahadd (Mahabb), one of the three runners sharing bottom weight, thus carrying a lesser burden than their dozen rivals. Ridden by Elione Chaves, in the UAE primarily as a work rider with some of the Scandinavian horses at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, he was never far off the pace and swept to the head of affairs fully 700m from home.

Fellow bottom weight, Ainhoa Topchef tried to keep tabs on him, with the rest struggling, but from 400m out only Fahadd, trained by Ahmed Al Mehairbi for Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, always looked like the winner. This was a first dirt victory for the horse at the seventh attempt.

Chaves said: “This is my second UAE winner, both here at Al Ain and it is great to get these opportunities, especially in such important silks.”

Trained on the Al Ain track by Mohd Ramadan for Mohd Al Aaser, ES Maydan (Big Easy) was the smooth winner of the opening Wathba Stallion Cup 1800m handicap under a polished ride from apprentice Adam McLean. Settled well off the pace and wide by his young jockey, he was switched to the inside rail entering the long home straight and was suddenly, tracking the leaders, seemingly traveling very strongly.

That proved to be the case with McLean just shaking his reins at the 300m pole and they dashed to the front, establishing an advantage they never looked likely to relinquish. It was a third career win for the horse, twice victorious at Sharjah over 1200m, most recently in a dead-heat in December 2016, for previous connections.

Ramadan, who had treated the crowd to a victory dance draped in the awaiting winner’s blanket, enthused: “This horse ran very well when second here a month ago and was not beaten far at Abu Dhabi last time. We thought returning to this longer trip would help him and he has enjoyed it under a very good ride from Adam.”

Initially first reserve, Nimer (Zefiro De Nulvi) took full advantage of a late opportunity in a 1600m maiden, overcoming signs of inexperience to win tidily enough in the end. Representing the Al Asayl team of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Eric Lemartinel, he was confidently ridden by Tadhg O’Shea who settled him in just behind the leaders. When asked to challenge, he seemed to take a few strides to understand what was required but then quickened to lead. Perhaps tiring close home, he was being reeled in by Afraa but the line came in time to post a cosy one length success.

Lemartinel said: “He is a nice young horse who is going to improve. It is nice to see him win today and, hopefully, he will be a good prospect for next season now.”