21 February 2020, Sharjah, UAE ~ Saturday, 22 February 2020 is the sixth and final meeting of the season at Sharjah Longines Racecourse and will be highlighted by the AED250,000 HH The Ruler of Sharjah Cup and the Sharjah Marathon.
A 1700m Prestige contest, the HH The Ruler Of Sharjah Cup has attracted a select field of eight with the weights headed by AF Al Aassi and AF Kal Noor, both to be saddled by Ernst Oertel for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda.
AF Al Aassi (AF MAQAM ALEZZ) had the benefit of apprentice Sean Kirrane’s 3kgs claim and is a Sharjah winner having registered his second and most recent success in a 2000m conditions event in December. He was partnered by Tadhg O’Shea on that occasion and O’Shea, retained by Al Nabooda, opts to partner AF Kal Noor on this occasion. O’Shea was in the saddle when AF Kal Noor made it ‘third time lucky’ when winning a 1400m Jebel Ali maiden in his dirt debut in November, and this will be his first start since, thus just his fourth career appearance and second on dirt. Perhaps significantly, O’Shea was aboard AF Al Aassi when that horse won a 1600m turf maiden at Abu Dhabi last January when AF Kal Noor was third.
O’Shea said: “These choices are never easy and both horses appear to have solid claims, but AF Kal Noor has had very little racing and perhaps the most potential to improve. It is nice for the whole team to have two good chances in such an important race.”
Eric Lemartinel also saddles two, Taajer, a maiden after four starts, but twice third here at Sharjah, over 1000m and 1200m. On the latter occasion he finished behind stable companion Maqam, then a winner at the Abu Dhabi Colts Classic, a 1400m Prestige contest on the turf in the capital.
With Ana Mendez enjoying a fantastic first season with a trainer’s licence, her Rahaal Al Wathba merits plenty of respect with Richard Mullen riding in the colours of Yas Racing. He and Mullen were far too good in a maiden over 1800m on the dirt at Al Ain on his fourth career and third local start just over a month ago and he seemingly has been kept off the track with this race in mind.
“He was very impressive the last time after a good second on his dirt debut before that.” Mullen said. “He learned a lot between runs and we hope there is plenty more improvement to come.”
The final race of the Sharjah season is the Sharjah Marathon, a 2700m handicap in which RB Grynade will attempt to defend the crown he won last year for Lemartinel and HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who are also represented by Jaahiz and Mustajeeb in the maximum field allowed of 16.
Oertel and Al Nabooda have four runners, O’Shea opting to ride AF Kafu, twice a Sharjah winner, over 1700m and over 2000m, as well as chasing home RB Grynade in this last year.
“Again it was not an easy choice,” O’Shea said. “AF Kafu ran very well in this last year and will hopefully appreciate the return to Sharjah where he normally runs well.”
Mendez and Mullen again combine, this time with Al Wathba Racing’s Fandim whose sole success was achieved in a 2000m maiden here at Sharjah.
Mullen said: “We know he likes Sharjah, which is a plus and we think he will stay the longer distance, but until we try, we can only hope.”
The only Thoroughbred race, a 2000m handicap, has also attracted the maximum field of 16 and looks wide open. Sandro Paiva rides Skygazer, the sole course and distance winner in the field for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, but it appears Fernando Jara prefers the chances of stable companion Hello, who shares the burden of top weight with Al Rayhi’s third runner, Jamesian.