12 March 2016 ~ THE RULER OF SHARJAH CUP (1700m) the headline race of the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club’s calendar highlighted the sixth and final meeting of the venue’s season on Saturday, 12 March.
The Eric Lemartinel-trained Hamza (AL NASR(FR) toughed out a brave win in the Prestige contest presented by Longines, handing owner Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and jockey Tadhg O’Shea a third consecutive victory following Abhaar last year and Molahen El Alhan in 2014.
It was hard going for the four-year-old as Sharjah has left-handed turns and dirt surface, not the right-handed bends on turf from his six local starts at Abu Dhabi. The colt went into the race with the strongest form on offer, having won the Prestige status Emirates Colts’ Classic (1600m) at his previous outing. O’Shea was determined to get to the front, rushing Hamza to the early lead from where they were never headed, despite hanging off the rail on the home turn. ES Kwashi, the Al Ain Derby winner, challenged all the way down the straight but Hamza held on grimly.
“He is a good horse but this was a first dirt outing,” said Lemartinel. “It was all a new experience for him but his quality has seen him victorious and he has shown a good attitude to battle to victory.”
O’Shea added: “He is a bit of a character but has plenty of ability and his class has prevailed.”
The final race of the Sharjah season is also the longest of their campaign and the Sharjah Marathon, presented by Longines, a 2700 metres handicap, was won in gritty fashion by The Secret (MADJANI), completing a double on the card for Sheikh Hamdan. Trained by Doug Watson, it was a fourth win of the season for the six-year-old stallion, all at Sharjah, having won over 1700 metres and twice over 2000 metres, the longest trip he had previously tried.
He made all under Hanagan, showing great resolution in the final 300 metres to stave off Rabdan who looked a potent danger under O’Shea halfway up the short straight. For the owner and his main jockey, it was a second consecutive win in a race they landed last year with Zaffaan, trained by Al Muhairi.
“He just seems to love it here at Sharjah,” said Watson. “He always worked like a really good horse but it took us a while to win with him. You are never sure if they will stay this kind of trip but we did know he was in good form and loves the track.’
Hanagan added: “He really had to dig deep there and it was a brave performance.”
The Helal Al Alawi-trained SNS Nujood (MADJANI (FR), ridden by Royston Ffrench, made herself prominent in the Longines Dolce Vita Handicap (1200m) before dominating the contest in the final 300 metrs to post a comfortable success. It was a second career victory for the six-year-old mare who had scored on the previous all-weather surface at Al Ain in February 2014.
“She has shown plenty of dash today and it was a good performance,” said Ffrench. “The yard have enjoyed a great season and you know you always have a chance when riding for them.”
Jockey Pat Dobbs combined with local trainer Saifaldin Deeb when ES Zeriyab (ZEFIRO DE NULVI) ran out the smooth winner of the Longines Conquest Classic Handicap (1700m). The seven-year-old was prominent throughout before posting only a second career victory from 24 starts.
“He was always going well and did it nicely,” said Dobbs.
The Jaci Wickham-trained Shamma W’Rsan (TRONASONIC(US), having only her second racecourse outing showed the benefit of the experience and a drop in trip when landing the opening Longines Conquest Classic Gent’s Maiden (1200m). The Richard Mullen ridden filly was never far off the pace staying on gamely to post a half-length margin of victory.
“She has done well to win,” said Mullen. “She did not have much company and found plenty for pressure. It is always pleasing to ride a winner for Jaci and, hopefully, this is a nice filly for the yard.”
Musabah Al Muhairi finishing the season with a real flourish saddled first and second in the Longines Prima Luna Handicap (1200m), the Thoroughbred race on the card, for leading owner HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.