Ihtesham, Mazur Claim Year Ending Abu Dhabi Championship

22 December 2019, Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, UAE ~ Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club staged its final meeting of 2019 on Sunday, 22 December, with six races officially highlighted by the Listed Abu Dhabi Championship, a 1600m contest restricted for 3-year-olds. The 1600m affair was won by a flared nostril in a desperately close finish by Ihtesham (AF Albahar), with a determined finish under Szczepan Mazur that denied RB Secondtonone that almost made the name ring true.


Ihtesham grey on the rail

The Ben Shahwan Arabian Horse Stables-owned filly won a 1400m Abu Dhabi maiden on her sole previous racecourse appearance in similar style, leading early in the straight and holding on well to clinch the spoils for trainer Ibrahim Al Hadhrami. Having tracked the speed, Mazur set sail for home with 300m remaining and the winning line appeared just in time to deny jockey Ryan Powell and trainer Nicole Ruggeri first UAE winners with local and turf debutant RB Secondtonone.

“To be honest I did not know if we had held on,” Mazur said. “When a horse is finishing fast like that, it is very hard to tell. Thankfully, the result was in our favour. This is a very nice filly who has now won both of her starts and shown a great attitude on both occasions. With luck, she is going to be a filly who can go onwards and upwards.”

The only Thoroughbred race was a high-quality 1400m handicap with several 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival aspirants among the maximum field allowed of 16. As it transpired, only one horse ever really counted, Yaalail, that broke well and was soon in front under Fernando Jara. A 4-year-old gelded son of Intello and homebred by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he was opening his local account at the seventh attempt for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and adding to his two victories from just five starts in France for John Hammond. This was by far his best UAE effort.

Champion UAE jockey 11 seasons ago when based with Doug Watson at Red Stables, Jara, winner of the 2007 Dubai World Cup on Sheikh Hamdan’s Invasor, completed a treble with the ultra-smooth victory of Dahess D’Arabie (Dahess) in a 1600m handicap restricted to horses in private ownership. Saddled by Helal Al Alawi for Saleh Omar Ali bin Haidar, the 5-year-old gelding was registering a third career and UAE success on his 16th career start. Victorious over 1400m on the Al Ain dirt in February, his other winning note was hit in a 1200m maiden here in the capital in March 2018.

“That was a good win and I was always traveling well throughout the race,” Jara said. “When I asked him to win his race, he responded well. That was quite impressive in what had looked a competitive race.”

Owner and trainer wasted no time in completing a double, combining with Connor Beasley to land the finale, a 2200m maiden, with Ezz Al Rawasi (Big Easy). Opening his account at the fifth attempt, the victor ettled in midfield by Beasley, edged into contention on the sweep for home and ultimately sprinted clear to victory.

Video Ezz Al Rawasi win with Connor Beasley

Inexperience almost proved costly for JAP Almahfuz (AF Al Buraq) in the opener, a 1400m maiden for horses foaled locally. Having led from the outset under Jara, the 3-year-old drifted markedly towards the centre of the track early in the straight, relinquishing the lead to fellow debutant Mhwal and Connor Beasley. However, Jara was able to straighten his wayward partner and—once back on an even keel—he picked up noticeably to regain the initiative inside the final 100m and win going away for trainer Irfan Ellahi and owner-breeder Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum.

“We like this horse and, as we saw there, he is still a big baby and very much a work in progress,” Ellahi said. “He can only improve for that initial experience and hopefully he is a nice horse to look forward to.”

AF Momtaz (AF Al Buraq) was the game front-running winner of a 1400m handicap, consistently responding to the urgings of Antonio Fresu, who was riding for his main UAE employer Musabbeh Al Mheiri and reigning UAE champion owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. Like the vast majority of the owner’s horses, AF Momtaz is a homebred and was registering a fourth career victory, all on the Abu Dhabi turf and winning for the second week running in the capital, having landed a 1600m handicap seven days previously.

“This horse just loves it here in Abu Dhabi and is a very tough, game and honest horse who just always tries his best,” Fresu said. “A week is a quick turnaround, but he has handled it well.”