Sunday 7 February 2016 ~ Abu Dhabi, UAE ~ Al Wathba Stables trainer Nacer Samiri continued a landmark first season in the UAE saddling the 1-2 in the Group 3 Al Ruwais (1000m), the feature at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club meeting on the first Sunday evening in February.
The Samri-trained Shateh, having his first outing since December 2014, flew out of the gates under reigning Qatar champion jockey Harry Bentley and the pair never looked back, always holding the challenge of stable companion, Sha’Red, seeking a third consecutive win in the race for his owner HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Sheikh Mansour had to settle for second this time but was unlikely to be too disappointed; the winner carries the colors of his son, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mansour Al Nahyan. Remarkably, the fledgling owner is yet to see his silks defeated; his only other horse, to date, Areem, having won both his outings this season.
“That was a good training performance as this horse had been off for over 400 days,” said Bentley. “He has a lot of natural speed so we were able to get to the front and then I managed to get a bit of a breather into him on the turn.
He then quickened nicely and was always holding on. There are not many of these 1000 metres races sadly but he stays 1600 well and is a really nice horse.”
As expected, Abhaar and former local Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, repeated their 2015 victory in the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup (1600m), a Prestige contest restricted to horses foaled in the UAE.
However, what looked a fairly straightforward task on paper, certainly was not with Dubai World Cup winning jockey Fernando Jara and the Abdallah Al Hammadi-prepared Sharaf Al Reef throwing down what, initially, appeared to be a telling challenge.
Jara’s mount looked to have the measure of Abhaar but, whereas the winner answered his jockey’s every call, Sharaf Al Reef appeared reluctant to pass and happy to finish second.
There was a neck between them at the line with Abhaar, now trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, registering a sixth career success and fourth over this course and distance.
“He is really laid back these days and just ever does enough,” O’Shea said. “He is excellent over this 1600m and would probably stay a bit further these days. When the second came to him he found plenty and was flicking his ears so I am pretty sure he had a lot left in the tank.”
There was a distinct sense of déjà vu after the Al Dhafrah Handicap (2200m) the only Thoroughbred contest, in which the Ahmad bin Harmash-trained Makzon registered an impressive victory.
Veronika Aske, previously assistant at Al Asayl Stables, is another trainer enjoying a decent first season in her own right. Her win tally was boosted when Latifa Princess won the Wathba Stud Farm Cup (1200m), restricted to private owners.
It was a third win of the season for the trainer, all supplied by Latifa Princess and Dubai-based jockey Sam Hitchcott, with the other two having been achieved at Al Ain.
“It is my first winner here in Abu Dhabi, so I am delighted,” said Aske. “She will go for a race at Al Ain in three weeks which will probably be her last run of the campaign.”
Having shown very little in his two previous career outing, the Helal Al Alawi-trained AZ Al Nayef made it third time lucky with an ultimately convincing victory in the opening Al Samha Maiden (1400m).
Tailed off in both previous racecourse appearances, back in 2014, the six-year-old was having his first start since March of that year and his first for the trainer.
One of many who was slowly away on this occasion, he was given time to find his stride by apprentice Hector Crouch before closing on the leaders just after halfway. They led early in the straight, powering clear to post a comfortable success.
“He has won well in the end,” said Crouch. “He has had very little racing so, hopefully, can progress from this.”
It was much closer in the following Habshan Maiden (1400m), when Infijar ridden by Argentinian Carlos Sanchez originally among the reserves, just denied Crouch and Al Alawi a double with Marbouh.
The first and second had the race between themselves throughout the straight with Marbouh, who led from the outset, headed 200 metres from home before fighting back gamely, failing to regain the initiative by just a nose.
Trained from Victory Stables by Mohd Al Shamshi, the winner was also opening his account at the third attempt.
“I was always going well,” said Sanchez who was riding his first winner of the season. “When I asked him to quicken he did so and I always thought we were holding on near the line.”