4 Feb 2014, Doha ~ By Howard Wright
Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club in Doha expects top fields for the exciting racing on February 6. The equivalent Qatar Gold Trophy for Purebred Arabians over 2,000m has attracted a select field, headed by Muntasar, the outright third-best Arabian in the recently-published International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities global ratings, and Rathowan, the joint fourth-best.
Muntasar, from the Umm Qarn stable, was rated 125 on the strength of his gallant neck defeat by Mushrae – joint best with Tabarak on a mark of 126 – in the richest international Arabian race of 2013, the Qatar Arabian World Cup, at Longchamp on Arc day last October.
Muntasar, who will be ridden by regular partner Pier Convertino, has been seen twice on his return to Qatar, winning the National Day Trophy (Group 2) by four lengths on 16 December, where Thursday’s rival and stablemate Farraaha was third, but running below his best when fourth, beaten nearly seven lengths, behind Djainka Des Forges in the Qatar P/A Derby on26 December.
Farraaha has since been beaten half a length into second place behind Al Anga, who was extending her winning run to four, in the Sheikh Abdulla Bin Khalifa Al Thani Cup on 16 January.
Al Anga will be attempting to make it five wins in a row, and four under Harry Bentley, in the colours of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani on Thursday, but she will have to make further progress to match her Julian Smart stablemate Rathowan, whose form in 2013, including placings behind Tabarak in this race and the Emir’s Sword, earned him a global rating of 122.
Rathowan, the mount of visiting French jockey Christophe Lemaire, was only ninth to Mushrae at Longchamp but reappeared in Qatar to win a conditions race over 2,000m on 15 January in a three-way photo-finish, where Thursday’s rival Vetlana De Faust came off worst.
In the other major Arabian race – the Qatar Gold Sword for local Purebreds over 2,200m – Lemaire and Smart team up with Assy, who begins his five-year-old season having risen through the ranks with an unbeaten sequence of six wins in 2013.
He completed the sequence by winning the Qatar Derby for local Purebreds on 26 December by seven lengths from La Hoor, who reopposes along with fifth-placed Maazouz.
Fouladh, representing the combination of Umm Qarn and Alban de Mieulle, will be ridden for the first time by Oliver Peslier, as he brings an even more remarkable record into the race, never having been out of the first two in 20 outings since mid-January 2012 and winning 12 of his last 14.
His most recent success was in the Sheikh Abdulllah Bin Khalifa Al Thani Trophy over 1,600m on 16 January, where he raced home five lengths clear of a field that included Thursday’s rivals Dahash (third), Khabbab (fourth), Raihan (fifth), La Hoor (seventh) and Laheeb Al Shahania (eighth).
On the Thoroughbred front
THE last three winners of the Qatar Derby – Ladyanne, Very Nice Name and Dubday – will provide a fascinating clash of the generations when they meet over 2,200m in the Qatar Gold Trophy, the feature event for thoroughbreds on Qatar Trophies and Gold Sword day at the Racing and Equestrian Cub on Thursday 6 February.
Very Nice Name, the 2012 Derby winner for the Umm Qarn stable of trainer Alban de Mieuille, won this race last year before landing the Emir’s Trophy and then being campaigned overseas. He was third to St Nicholas Abbey in the Dubai Sheema Classic, ran unplaced at Ascot in England, and from three races in France did best when second to the Japanese superstar Orfevre in the Qatar Prix Foy.
These fine efforts against top-class opposition enabled Very Nice Name to end the 2013 European season with an international rating of 118 and the honour of being Qatar’s highest-rated representative in the end-of-year Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.
On his first outing since his return to Qatar, on 3 December, he was beaten 1.75 lengths into third place behind Amico Mio in the HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani Trophy (Group 2).
Amico Mio, winner of the Gold Trophy in 2012 but below par in it a year ago, again takes on Very Nice Name, as does the 2011 Qatar Derby and 2012 Qatar Oaks winner Ladyanne, who split the pair that day, beaten 1.25 lengths by the winner, as well as Peter Anders (fourth), Loi (eighth), Seema (ninth) and Clean Bowled (13th).
Peter Anders has since won a conditions race, the Wathnan Cup, with Thursday’s rival Polperro fifth, while the eight-year-old Amico Mio continued to belie his age for owner Sheikh Nasser Bin Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani and trainer Yousef Bentaher by winning a 2,000m condition stakes by a length from Very Nice Name’s stablemate Lancelot on 16 January.
Third to Amico Mio in Thursday’s race in 2012 before an emphatic victory in the Emir’s Trophy, Lancelot was making his first appearance for 18 months that day.
Others from the race who renew opposition are Zarkiyr (fifth), the mount of this season’s leading jockey Stephen Ladjadj, Clean Bowled (fifth), Miblish (sixth), Lion D’Anvers (tenth), Seema (13th) and Beethoven (14th).
Lancelot will again be ridden by Pier Convertino, while Oliver Peslier, a regular visitor to Qatar from his base in France for several years, renews his Emir’s Trophy-winning association with Very Nice Name.
Peslier’s booking adds another dimension to the generation game, since the experienced international campaigner will be pitting his wits against Harry Bentley, one of Britain’s rising stars, who is based in Dubai for the Carnival season.
Bentley, who recently rode six winners on an eight-race card at Doha, takes the mount on Dubday for owner Sheail Bin Khalifa Al Kuwari and leading trainer Jassim Ghazali. The four-year-old marked his Middle East debut with a two-length victory in the Qatar Derby (Group 1) over 2,000m on 26 December.
British bred but raced in Germany, Dubday is an exciting prospect whose potential will be tested to the full in this company.