February 26, 2014, Doha ~ Alban de Mieulle, trainer for the Umm Qarn stable, continued his remarkable run in the Gulf Cup, the first major prize to be contested at the three-day 23rd HH the Emir International Equestrian Sword Festival at the Racing and Equestrian Club on Tuesday, winning the race for the ninth time in ten years with the four-year-old filly Haifaa (Amer & Djelmila).
The least experienced runner in the line-up, Haifaa was having her fifth start and completed her fourth win in a row in the event for GCC-bred Arabians, over 1600m and worth 500,000 riyals, but success looked unlikely as the field made the turn into the 350m straight.
Arrafa, ridden by Pier Convertino for owner HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani and trainer Julian Smart, who had two other contenders in the race, set off at a hectic pace and was still 15 lengths clear on the home bend.
However, Arrafa’s stride began to shorten with 200m to run and Haifaa, on whom Olivier Peslier had replaced regular rider Covertino, stormed through to lead.
Arrafa hung on grimly for second place, but Haifaa was still going away at the finish and won by four lengths, with her stablemate Suwaida running on to claim third spot by a neck from Thawi.
Gulf Cup 24th PA local horses 4 years + 1600m 285,00QR turf
1.Haifaa ( Amer & Djelmila)
2. Arrafa(Burning Sand & Hemie de Faust)
3. Suwaida (Nizam & Ezraa)
When the Gulf Cup was run, de Mieulle and Peslier were still involved in a stewards’ inquiry into the result of the previous race, the Al Rayyan Cup, over 1,850m for local thoroughbreds and worth 500,000 riyals.
Their front-runner Baaria was hampered as Aseer took the lead inside the last 150m and veered towards the rails, forcing Peslier to stop riding for a few strides.
Aseer raced clear to win by a length and a quarter from Sraab, with Majd threequarters of a length away and Baaria beaten a further two a half lengths into fourth.
When the stewards resumed their inquiry, they allowed the placings to stand, to the relief and delight of Mohammed Al Yaquot, who trains the four-year-old for the Al Jeryan Stud.
“This is an unforgettable day,” Al Yaquot said. “Aseer has proved himself the best thoroughbred in training bred in Qatar.”
There was a sting in the tail for Dubai’s champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea, for whom Aseer was his only mount of the aftfternoon, as the stewards handed him a two-day suspension that means he will miss his local Carnival meeting, including the third leg of the Al Maktoum Challenge.
O’Shea, who had not ridden in Qatar for six years but is hoping to make more trips from Dubai next season, said: “I’m delighted to have ridden a winner on my first ride for the stable. The ban is disappointing but we move on.
“Aseer was very fresh before the race but he soon settled well and picked up when I wanted.
“He had a nice low weight and that probably helped him against the older horses. The locally-bred horses usually have a hard time against those that have been imported, but Aseer could be above average.”
Qatar’s leading trainer Jassim Ghazali had the odds stacked in his favor in the day’s richest race, the Group 3 Qatar 2022 Invitation Cup, over 1,200m for thoroughbreds and worth one million riyals. He saddled eight of the 15 runners and four filled the first six places.
First home by a comfortable two and a half lengths was Sandbetweenourtoes, the mount of Stephan Ladjadj, who was completing his seventh success from his last nine races for owner Sheail Bin Khalifa Al Kuwari.
“He’s a machine,” Ghazali said of the winning five-year-old, who compiled just two successes from 13 starts in England, before being bought for 10,000gns at Tattersalls sales in November 2012.
In a photo-finish of heads and necks for the minor placings, Bazaruto emerged best of the pack chasing Sandbetweenourtoes, and held off the winner’s stablemates Pay Freeze and Kohala, but he had no answer to a gelding at the top of his game.