27 January 2016, Al Ain, UAE ~ The featured 1000m handicap at Al Ain on Friday, 27 January, turned into a one-horse race when the Ernst Oertel-trained AF Thobor (AF Al Buraq (AE) led from the outset and was never headed under Richard Mullen.
On paper this was an ultra-competitive race, but Mullen’s mount made short work of the opposition. Third and second, over the same course and distance behind re-opposing duo RB Goliath and Ubu Al Mels respectively on previous two outings, AF Thobor had this race in the bag shortly over halfway.
“I was always traveling very strongly,” said Mullen. “He actually won that in good style and was quite impressive.”
The jockey was completing a double having already landed the only Thoroughbred contest, a 1400m handicap, aboard the Satish Seemar-trained Seastrom, whom he produced to lead about 300m from home and was then resolute to maintain the advantage.
HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Al Asayl-based trainer Eric Lemartinel, have been in great form in recent weeks and supplied both first and second in a in a 2000m conditions race. Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, unleashed Iffraaj (Zefiro De Nulvi(IT) to lead in the dying strides and deny stable companion, RB Burning Ash and Gerald Avranche.
“We were very hopeful as Iffraaj won nicely here last time,” said Lemartinel. “We think a lot of him and it was a good effort as RB Burning Ash is a nice horse.”
O’Shea added: “This 2000m on dirt is really what he needs and this, against the older horses for the first time, is a step up for him. It is the first time he has had to battle and hopefully he can progress again.”
An hour later, the same connections were celebrating a 1-2-3 with O’Shea again choosing the right ride to partner Darius Du Paon (No Risk Al Maury (FR) making his second start a winning one in a 1400m maiden. He was chased home by his stable companions Mushrif and Jeemi.
“We thought we had some good chances in this race and so it proved,” said Lemartinel. “Darius Du Paon ran very well when third on his one previous start and did this well today.”
O’Shea completed a treble when leading from start to finish in a 1000m maiden aboard ES Fatek (Big Easy (US) , trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
Having just his second career start, after a promising debut seconds over 1200m at Sharjah when showing plenty of speed, this drop to the minimum trip clearly suited.
“He is just very quick in his grade,” said O’Shea. “I was always happy out in front and he just kept on going all the way to the line to win nicely.”
The opening 2000m Dhs 70,000 handicap Wathba Stud Farm for Private Owners produced a thrilling finish with the Helal Al Alawi-trained Yalap Al Naif (Maerl Du Cassou (FR), ridden by apprentice George Buckell, leading in the final strides to deny stable companion, Al Gassimi after gallantly leading throughout under Bruno Reis.
“This horse always tends to be slowly away and he was again today,” said Buckell. “He makes life hard for himself but we know these conditions suit him after his very easy course and distance win on his penultimate start. He has been kept busy this season and perhaps deserves a little break now.”
Al Alawi went on to complete a double, with Royston Ffrench the man in the saddle on this occasion and he was never headed aboard Naiem (AF Albahr (AE) in a 1400m handicap.