18 March 2016, Al Ain, UAE ~ Al Ain racecourse feature race on Thursday evening was dominated by Al Asayl Stables-based trainer Eric Lemartinel.
The Frenchman saddled five HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan-owned runners for the Al Muwaiji Handicap (1600m) sponsored By Shadwell and welcomed back the first four home in the AED80,000 contest. Bashayer (Calin Du Loup) ridden by apprentice George Buckell won easily chased home by Estourah and RB Rich Abratude with Al Jazi running on late to snatch fourth close home.
“It is actually my first ride for the owner and yard so it is great to make it a wining one for such powerful connections,” said Buckell. “She was actually outpaced throughout the first half of the race but picked up the bit on the turn for home. The gaps opened up in the straight when we needed them and she ran on very strongly.”
Tadhg O’Shea, the season’s leading jockey, was out of luck in the headline race but was in the winner’s enclosure just 30 minutes later after Firdos (Al Jakbar) tuned the Remah Maiden (1400m) into a procession for Sheikh Khalifa and Lemartinel. The four-year-old was never headed, crossing the line with more than 11 lengths ahead of runner-up Samha Al Reef.
“I keep saying she is one of the best three fillies in the yard and was amazed she was beaten at Sharjah,” said O’Shea. “She has always worked like a very smart performer but has taken a while to get her act together. With this win under her belt, hopefully she will be a nice filly for next season.”
The Dhruba Selvaratnam-trained Secret Sentinel (Dormane) making a dirt debut, opened his career tally with victory in the Al Markhaniya Handicap (1400m) following two well beaten turf outings at Abu Dhabi. Sent for home fully 500 metres out by stable rider Chris Hayes he ran on strongly to provide his owners Forta Stud with a first UAE winner.
“He will stay further so I was happy to commit a long way out,” said Hayes. “He has taken well to the dirt and should improve.”
Earlier the Al Wataniya Cup Maiden (2000m) provided the perfect opportunity for the ten-year-old Namoos Al Reef (TC Tomahawk(US) to make it third time lucky in a truncated career. The locally-bred entire first raced in February 2012 then was not seen again until February of this year when fourth at Sharjah. His third career run produced a first winner of the season for both trainer, Omar Daraj and apprentice jockey, Ismail Koyuncu.
The meeting opened with the Wathba Stud Farm Cup Handicap (2000m) won comfortably by Major handing trainer Tony Manuel his second winner of the season from his new base at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. Bred by the Niarchos Family, the 6-yr-old Dormane son seemed to like the dirt for his first win of the year.
“He is a decent horse on his day,” said Manuel. “He is not the easiest to predict but when things go right for him he is very capable as we saw today.”
Former Champion Jockey Wayne Smith handled Major before celebrating a first and last race double when making all on the locally-trained AL Hadaf in the nightcap.
“He showed lots of early speed and kept going when challenged,” said Smith. “He has actually quickened away in the final 100 metres.”
The only Thoroughbred contest was the Al Khaznah Handicap (1400m) which produced a rapid-fire double from the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Tagseed, a winner at Sharjah last Saturday.
The last race of the season at Al Ain will be held on 19 March.