30 January 2020, Al Ain, UAE ~ A seven-race card is on tap for Al Ain on Friday, the last day of January 2020, including six for Purebred Arabians and one for Thoroughbreds.
The best is saved for last, the featured First Leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a 3200m handicap with 13 declared, including last year’s winner Hareer Al Reef. Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, the 7-year-old entire was then third and second in the 4100m Round 2 and the 5100m Final Round, respectively. He has had just one outing this season, never threatening to land a blow over an inadequate 1600m in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 at Meydan.
The mount of Pat Cosgrave, Hareer Al Reef (Bibi De Carrere x VALDORA by Dormane) is joined in the field by stable companion and full brother Balad Al Reef, to be ridden by Szczepan Mazur, another regular in these Al Ain staying races, highlighted by three victories in the 5100m Final Leg in 2016, 2017 and again last year. That was in the middle of March, so the 9-year-old entire is returning from a 321-day absence.
Al Hammadi said: “This has been a target for both horses, who we know conditions suit and stay well. Hareer Al Reef has race fitness on his side and Balad Al Reef is probably better over further these days, but both should run well.”
Heading the weights is Ajjaj (TAHAR DE CANDELON), to be ridden by Richie Mullen for Jean de Roualle and Al Wathba Racing. A 9-year-old, he won the second and final rounds in 2018 and was third in the latter last year. His presence, with an official rating of 90, actually means only three of the runners, himself and the aforementioned Al Ajban Stables’ pair, are actually able to compete off their official handicap marks.
Assuming the handicapper has it right, the remaining runners are in deep water, including Loshkar, representing Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, Ernst Oertel and Tadhg O’Shea, along with Al Asayl’s RB Grynade, Fabrice Veron riding for Eric Lemartinel and HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The Thoroughbred race is a 1600m handicap due to be contested by the maximum allowed field of 15 and, as are the majority of such races staged at Al Ain, ultra-competitive with Initial holding strong claims for Musabbeh Al Mheiri, Al Bait Mutawahed Team and Antonio Fresu. An 8-year-old gelded son of Invincible Spirit, he seems to have taken a shine to Al Ain, recording the second of his two locals wins last February. He should relish the return to track and trip, the first time he has encountered what appear his optimum conditions since that victory last February.
Fresu said: “He has been running solid races this season apart from his penultimate outing when well beaten here at Al Ain over 2000m when I actually did not ride him. He seems in good form and is handicapped to go close in an open race.”