An interesting Abu Dhabi card on Sunday is highlighted by the Group 3 Al Ruwais, a 1000m dash for the Purebred Arabians in which the Majed Al Jahouri-trained Thakif is seeking a third consecutive victory.
That feat has been achieved before, by the legendary Big Easy, trained by Satish Seemar for H E Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.
As in the previous two years, Harry Bentley rides Thakif and said: “He has a lot of natural speed and clearly relishes the Abu Dhabi 1000m. We have a better draw than last year and you have to be hopeful that he can make it three years in a row.”
He is owned by HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, as is stable companion Rakha, the horse who chased him home 12 months ago and will bid to turn the tables with the assistance of Silvestre De Sousa.
“The horse has good form,” said the Brazilian jockey retained by Godolphin. “His was a good run in this last year and he then beat Thakif over 1400m. We should not be far away and have a nice draw but it is Rakha’s first run of the season and he has tended to need an outing in the past to put him spot on.”
It would be no surprise if the two stable companions and old rivals were to dominate again.
The card also features the 1600m Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup, won last year by AF Sanadek for trainer Eric Lemartinel and owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda.
Lemartinel saddles HK Alawiya this year, with his French compatriot, Gerald Avranche in the saddle but Al Nabooda’s AF Al Hazer appeals as a more likely winner.
Trained by Ibrahim Al Hadhrami, he is the mount of Royston Ffrench who was in treble form at Al Ain’s inaugural meeting on Friday.
Molahen El Alhan, representing the powerful duo of Champion Trainer, Ernst Oertel and Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, could be the main danger.
As is so often the case, the only Thoroughbred race is the concluding contest and ten have been declared for a 2200m handicap, with the weights headed by Emmrooz, winner of the Jebel Ali Stakes in 2011 for Dhruba Selvaratnam.
Emmrooz recorded his first victory since on his penultimate start, in a Jebel Ali handicap and is having only his second turf outing for his current yard, having contested a Meydan handicap in early 2011 (he did run once on grass for Saeed bin Suroor at Nad Al Sheba in 2009).
Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen have been doing particularly well in Abu Dhabi’s Thoroughbred races recently and combine with Mawhub who will be having only his tenth career start.
This will be his first turf outing in the UAE, after four runs on the all-weather at Meydan, including a win on his local debut when trained by Saeed bin Suroor, and he should go close.
The Erwan Charpy-trained Amaan has chased home winners trained by Seemar in each of his last two appearances, here in the capital, and looks sure to run another big race with Paul Hanagan in the saddle.
Prior to that, Charpy’s charge was third to Udabaa, one of three in this race trained by Doug Watson.