17 January 2020, Al Ain, UAE ~ Seven races at Al Ain on Friday, all originally attracting maximum fields of 15, were officially highlighted by the finale, a 1000m conditions contest for Purebred Arabians, won impressively by Rawaa, completing a double on the card for jockey Richie Mullen and trainer Eva Mendez while maintaining her unbeaten record in the process.
A 5-year-old (Munjiz x Rudina (US) by Burning Sand (US), the mare became the first winner to carry the colors of Al Wathba Racing having won her debut at Sharjah at the beginning of November in the silks of her breeder, Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Quickly away from the stalls, she and Mullen were soon in front and, at halfway, the vast majority of their 14 opponents were struggling, leaving Mamara XM to give chase, but in vain with the winner never looking likely to relinquish her advantage.
Mullen said: “She impressed me at Sharjah and has a lot of natural speed which she has shown again today. Hopefully we can find some suitable sprinting options for her because she is speedy.”
Earlier, a maiden over 1800m was turned into a procession by Rahaal Al Wathba (TAHAR DE CANDELON (FR) x Rawaa Al Wathba (AE) by Bibi De Carrere), soon in front under Mullen and the pair never saw any of their 14 rivals. With the race in safekeeping fully 600m from homem the 4-year-old colt shot clear to open his account at the fourth attempt. Trained by Mendez for Yas Racing, for whom he was a first winner, he raced once in his native France, finishing well beaten over 1400m on turf. He then made his local debut in Abu Dhabi and grass finishing ninth in the Abu Dhabi Colts Classic, a 1400m Prestige contest. His first start on dirt here at Al Ain over 1600m racing for Yas Horse Racing Management was a closing second. That experience combined with the extra 200m certainly seemed to have benefited him greatly.
Mullen said: “That is the first time I have ridden him in a race. He gave me a great feel all the way round and is a nice young horse who should improve. You have to credit Ana and her team for getting him here today in top condition to produce such a good performance.”
The best of the Purebred Arabian handicaps was over 2000m and won in thrilling fashion by Onward (Munjiz (FR) x Samrah (FR) by Akbar), produced by Pat Cosgrave to lead in the final strides. In the straight it was the three from Al Asayl, RB Grynade, Foaad and Jaahiz that looked to have the race between them but it was RB Grynade and Jaahiz that appeared set to fight out the finish. Not to let the pair settle, Cosgrave and Onward, among the backmarkers entering the long straight, picked up stylishly inside the final 250m to lead where it mattered to finish in 1:04:73. Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, the 5-year-old entire started the season as a maiden, but has now won three of his last four starts, two at Al Ain and one on the Abu Dhabi turf.
Cosgrave said: “He won over 2200m at Abu Dhabi, so I was always confident he would stay on strongly and he did. He was only beaten in a photo over this course and distance last time, so it is great for connections he has gone one better today.”
Owner and trainer completed a double, achieved in virtually identical circumstances when Safin Al Reef (Bibi De Carrere x ASSILA (FR) by Dormane) finished with a flourish having been a long way back throughout the first half of a handicap over 1800m restricted to horses foaled in the UAE with Szczepan Mazur the main in the saddle on this occasion. A 6-year-old entire, he was winning for the fourth time in total and registering consecutive victories having landed his previous start, a 2000m handicap here at Al Ain, late in November.
Mazur said: “They went pretty quick which has really helped me because this horse stays well and has enjoyed running through horses in the home straight.”
Fourteen contested the opening 1400m maiden, for 4-year-olds in private ownership, but only one ever led with Elione Chaves sending the US-bred, WMA Afar (AF ALBAHAR (AE) x My Friend Bee (US) by Burning Sand) straight to the front and the pair heading there, despite the colt showing obvious signs of inexperience on his dirt debut and just second career start. Trained by Khalifa Al Neyadi for Nasr Abdullah Nasser Al Rashi, the colt had shown early pace on his debut, on the Abu Dhabi turf four weeks ago, before fading and beating just one of his 15 rivals in the 1600m Listed Abu Dhabi Championship.
Chaves’ mount had most of the field in trouble a long way home before pulling clear in the final 300m to the delight of Al Neyadi, who said: “We like this horse, but as you can see, he is still a big baby. Hopefully there is plenty more to come from him and he can improve with time and racing experience.”
WMA Forte (Moulin Rouge MAF (US) x WMA Flora (US) by Ibn Bint Hilyuri (US), previously a maiden after 13 starts, remedied that in majestic fashion with a comprehensive victory in a 1600m handicap, providing jockey Sandro Paiva something of an armchair ride. Settled in about fifth, the 6-year-old entire was encouraged to close on the leaders entering the home turn, sticking to the inside rail, saving ground and emerging in front as they exited the bend after which they were never going to be caught. Saddled by Ahmad Salem Al Shamsi, celebrating his first ever winner, for Khalifa Ahmed Khalifa Khalaf Al Mazrouei, the horse’s only previous piece of placed form was when second, in a maiden here at Al Ain over 1800m, last February.
Paiva said: “I was always traveling well and very happy throughout the race. We hit the front early enough, but he has galloped resolutely all the way to the line and won stylishly.”
The only Thoroughbred race, also a 2000m handicap, looked very competitive on paper, but in reality, very few were ever able to get seriously involved with Heraldic making a bold bid from the front under Richie Mullen only to be passed inside the final 200m by Antonio Fresu and Antimo who broke the track record. Mullen’s mount tried to fight back, but could not do so, crying enough with 100m remaining allowing Antimo a relatively comfortable victory, doubling his career tally in the process having, at the seventh attempt, lost his maiden tag in a handicap over this same course and distance in early December.