22 February 2019, Sharjah, UAE ~ Saturday, 23 February 2019, is the sixth and final meeting of the season at the Sharjah Equestrian Club, and is highlighted by HH The Ruler of Sharjah Cup, the 1700m Prestige highlight in which ES Ajeeb threw away what appeared certain victory 12 months ago. With the race at his mercy and many lengths clear of toiling rivals, the horse, basically, refused to enter the home straight, instead careering across the course and depositing the unfortunate Sam Hitchcott on the dirt.
Trained on the track by Ibrahim Aseel, the now 5-year-old (BIG EASY x BENT AL ASAYL by Djebel Lotois) carries the colours of his breeder, racecourse chairman Sheikh Abdulla bin Majid Al Qassemi, and even with stamina doubts, looks the most likely winner. Over 1400m, at on the dirt surface at Meydan he was never headed in the Group 2 Bani Yas in November. That was followed by an impressive victory over 1200m here at Sharjah in the inaugural HH The Crown Prince of Sharjah Cup at the end of December. A close third on his latest outing, when trying defy a penalty in the Group 3 Al Ruwais, over 1200m on the Abu Dhabi turf, his five victories also include last March’s Al Ain Derby over 1800m.
Regular jockey, Hitchcott, is again in the saddle and said: “As we keep saying he is a very good dirt sprinter, but suitable races are few and far between, so he is running over further than ideal. Hopefully his class will be enough to get him through.”
Heading the dangers would appear to be MH Rahal, to be saddled by Elise Jeanne and the mount of Antonio Fresu. A 1200m Sharjah winner in November 2017, he was not beaten far when fourth in this race last year.
Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and Ernst Oertel were the fortunate beneficiaries of ES Ajeeb’s antics last year when Fresu landed the spoils on their AF Maher. This year they rely on AF Motaghatres, the mount of Al Nabooda’s retained jockey, Tadhg O’Shea and a 1400m Abu Dhabi winner just last Sunday. The 5-year-old will be running for the third consecutive weekend.
Another powerful combination, that of Sheikh Khalifa and Eric Lemartinel, were responsible for seven entries in the race, but they chose to declare just Maktoob, after shedding his maiden tag at Al Ain just last week over 1800m.
A handicap over 2700m, the Sharjah Marathon has always been a highlight of the Sharjah campaign and is the final race to be staged here this season. Fourteen go to post with the weights headed by Mahfouz for Sheikh Khalifa, Lemartinel and Pat Cosgrave.
For Al Nabooda, Oertel saddles two with O’Shea opting to partner AF Kafu over Daana, a nice spare ride for Bernardo Pinheiro.
The only Thoroughbred contest is a very competitive 1200m handicap, which looks wide open. His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum has two runners, with Jim Crowley deciding to ride Alkhalifa for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. The owner’s second jockey, Dane O’Neill will be aboard Mutawakked who is in the care of Musabbeh Al Mheiri.