Group 3 Al Ruwais
25 January 2020, Abu Dhabi, UAE ~ A six-race race card on the turf at Abu Dhabi on Sunday, 26 Janaury 2020 is highlighted by the 1200m Group 3 Al Ruwais for which 12 have been declared including Wadeeaa and ES Ajeeb that will rival AF Alwajel.
Wadeeaa, trained last year by Mohd Ali for Al Wathba Racing, arrived in the capital a bit over a year ago and subsequently landed the January 2019 Gr 1 Al Maktoum Challenge on the Meydan dirt surface for which she then received an extra weight penalty. A 6-year-old mare, without a penalty this year, she makes a second start for Ana Mendez and will be ridden by Omani Al Moatasem Al Balushi seeking a first UAE winner after 22 previous attempts.
Mendez said: “She needed her first run in the Bani Yas (November 2019) behind ES Ajeeb and should be a lot fitter this time. Hopefully she can run well in a good renewal.”
Also carrying a penalty 12 months ago and with a similar extra impost this time, ES Ajeeb has been the flagbearer for trainer Ibrahim Aseel with seven victories representing half his career starts, including the last two renewals of the Group 2 Bani Yas on the dirt at Meydan. Homebred by Sheikh Abdulla bin Majid Al Qassemi, chairman of the Sharjah Equestrian Club where Aseel trains, the 6-year-old has won once from four turf appearances in the capital landing the 1600m Listed Arabian Triple Crown R1 as a 4-year-old in 2018.
The colt by US-bred Big Easy is conceding weight to his 11 rivals. Sam Hitchcott, in the saddle for all his 14 starts bar his debut, is replaced this run by Antonio Fresu. Hitchcott said of him: “He is naturally quick, but does seem happier on dirt. Sadly, there are few sprint options on the dirt though, so this is an obvious alternative and he ran very well in it last year, under a penalty which he has to again carry here.”
Carrying only 1 kg less is the homebred by Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, the 5-year-old entire AF Alwajel. The AF Al Buraq colt has won half of his six career starts. Trained by Ernst Oertel, his wins have all been on dirt, a surface on which he has been beaten just once in four outings when fifth in Al Maktoum Challenge R1 a fortnight ago.
The mount of Tadhg O’Shea, AF Alwajel has finished second on both turf outings over 1400m and 1600m here at Abu Dhabi and O’Shea said: “He showed last season he handles the turf well and this will be his first grass outing at a sprint distance which should really suit him. He has not had much racing at all, has a high cruising speed and we hope is still improving, so we are looking forward to the opportunity to contest a good quality turf sprint.”
Richard Mullen, who could have ridden Wadeeaa for Al Wathba Racing, has instead elected to partner the same owner’s Rawaa, a 5-year-old mare by Munjiz. Winner of both of her starts over 1200m at Sharjah and then 1000m at Al Ain, so is making her turf debut.
Previously in the capable hands of Mendez, she is having a first start for Majed Al Jahoori, saddling his first runner since he received a two-year ban in January 2017. The handler won three consecutive renewals of this race with dual scorer Thakif in 2012 and 2013 before saddling Rakha that dead-heated with the appropriately named Shared in 2014.
The RB Money To Burn team of Eric Lemartinel, Fabrice Veron and Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan, are represented by RB Lam Tara, a 5-year-old mare whose three career victories have all been here at Abu Dhabi over 1600m, the shortest trip over which she has previously competed.