15 February 2018, Al Ain, UAE ~ Racing at Al Ain Racecourse on Friday, 16 February 2018, is highlighted by Round 3 Of The Al Ain Marathon Series, a 4100m (2.54miles) handicap and the final of the seven races on the card. The equivalent race was won last year by Balad Al Reef, trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, whose vivid lime green silks will again be worn by Fernando Jara.
Stamina is certainly not an issue for Jara’s mount, having already won the second round over 3200m. He followed up his victory in this race 12 months ago by winning the fourth and final leg of the series, a handicap over 5100m. This season he has been third in his two starts, the first and second rounds of the series, both won by Shamikh Al Wathba.
“He has run well in the two shorter rounds, but the return to this longer distance will really suit him,” Jara said. “He does have top weight but the yard are in form and we expect him to run well.”
Chasing him home last year was RB Rich Surprise, another regular in these distance races. Representing Al Asayl, he is trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea.
“He stays well and is a grand horse who always tries his best,” O’Shea said. “He should run another solid race. Even though there are only six runners, it looks a strong contest.”
As mentioned, the first two rounds this season have gone to Shamikh Al Wathba, trained on the Al Ain track by Jean de Roualle for Yas Horse Racing Management. For the first, a 2600m handicap, he was actually awarded the race after Ajjaj, now a stable companion and again in opposition, subsequently tested positive for a prohibited substance. RB Rich Surprise was second on that occasion, but only fourth when De Roualle’s charge was victorious in Round 2, a 3200m handicap.
“He has only had seven starts and is progressive,” De Roualle said. “Obviously the distance is a query, but he stayed 3200m well and we are hopeful the extra 900m will not be a problem.”
The mount of Adrie de Vries, Ajjaj was actually demoted from first in two races for his previous handler and this will be his first start since first past the post in the 2600m first round nine weeks ago.
Bayan was second in the 3200m second round a month ago, staying on resolutely when headed by Shamikh Al Wathba. He is reunited on this occasion with Silvestre de Sousa, aboard when the pair were victorious on his penultimate start, at Al Ain over 2000m. When victorious, in the middle of December, he was chased home by Zahee, who would appear one of the main protagonists in the 1600m conditions race on the card.
Another representing the powerful Al Asayl team is Jeemi, the mount of Gerald Avranche. O’Shea was aboard Zahee when he achieved his sole career victory from nine starts in an Al Ain maiden over 1800m in December, while Avranche and Jeemi were 2000m Al Ain winners on his latest outing three weeks ago.
The only Thoroughbred race is a 2000m maiden and Satish Seemar may well hold the key with Mullen electing to ride Broadcloth, who was narrowly beaten over the same course and distance in a handicap a fortnight ago. Again, there will be much interest in his stable companion Immortalised, who will be ridden by De Sousa and is seeking to become the first UAE winner sired by the great Frankel.