30 January 2015, Al Ain, UAE ~ The second leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a 3200m conditions contest, was the highlight at Al Ain on Friday evening and produced a thrilling finish with Al Asayl stable companions Sheikh Down (Calin Du Loup (FR) x Burning Firestar (US) by BIG EASY (US), Burj Khalifa and Munzade crossing the line together in a photo.
Al Ketbi, al Asayal trainer, took his total of winners to 12, eight of which have come on the Al Ain track after he took charge of the Abu Dhabi stables temporarily until Ernst Oertel returns from his lengthy suspension that ends in April.
It was Sheikh Down, the choice of Tadhg O’Shea that prevailed, leading on the line to deny the gallant Burj Khalifa under Royston French.
With the crowd on their feet, O’Shea’s mount received a tremendous ovation and was one of three winners on the card for the Champion Jockey, trainer Salem Al Ketbi, and owner HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“I thought I was in trouble at one stage said,” O’Shea. “You just never know if they will stay these marathon trips and he ran on really strongly at the end. It has been a great day.”
Earlier, the opening 2000m handicap was won comfortably by Rabdan (Calin Du Loup (FR) x Fryga (US), initiating the winning day for O’Shea. and He pulled his mount out wider at the top of the straight before driving him to the front 200m from home.
“He is a young horse and progressive,” said O’Shea. “This was only his fifth start and he did it nicely but is still learning.”
The jockey was expressing similar sentiments after winning a 1400m maiden aboard Razeen (ELIOS DE CARRERE (FR) x EARLY MORNING (AE) by Johnny Onthe Spot (US). The pair looked set to win comfortably 300m from the line, only to be made to work hard with several challengers closing. However, once O’Shea asked for maximum effort his mount pulled clear.
“That was only his fifth outing,” said O’Shea. “He will improve.”
The main support race, a 1000m handicap and second leg of the Al Ain Sprint Series was won by apprentice, George Buckell aboard Safina Ghantoot (Tron Ku Tu (US) x Love Joy (US) by By Golly (US), denying TM Junior Johnson a second consecutive course and distance victory.
Buckell sat motionless most of the way, having taken his mount to the far side of the field behind a fast and furious pace. TM Junior Johnson led 300m from home but could not repel the late challenge of Buckell and the Helal Al Alawi-trained winner.
“I was always going very strongly, said Buckell and that fast gallop really suited him. It was a good race and a nice performance.”
The only Thoroughbred race on the card, an 1800m handicap, was turned into a procession by Etijaah, carrying he second colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum for whom he was a 700th UAE winner as an owner.
Trained by Doug Watson, he was ridden by Dane O’Neill with the pair crossing the line more than 18 lengths clear.