19 March 2016, Al Ain race course held its final meeting of the season on 19 March, and it was highlighted by the 1600m Al Ain Mile, a Prestige conditions contest worth AED 250,000 ($69,000) which was won narrowly by RB Rich Surprise ridden by Wayne Smith for trainer Eric Lemartinel and owner HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan.
The speedy Shateh and jockey Harry Bentley had the majority of their ten rivals in trouble as the runners turned into the long Al Ain straight but Smith and RB Rich Surprise (TH Richie (US)x Lore (US) by Wiking) saving ground on the inside set off in pursuit. The leader found plenty for pressure but could not repel the final challenge of the winner, going down by a neck.
“I was keen to save ground and go the shortest way,” said Smith. “Everything I asked he answered in the closing stages and that was a gutsy win from a nice horse.”
The Thoroughbred version of the Al Ain Mile was a memorable occasion for Champion Owner HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum who supplied the first four home. It was the Doug Watson-trained Etijaah under Sam Hitchcott, who led the owner’s quartet past the post.
The trainer was completing a double after he and and stable rider Pat Dobbs, enjoying a stellar season in tandem, combined with local debutant Silex Al Maury (Akbar(FR) to land a 1600m maiden.
The French-bred five-year-old hit the front 200m from home and ran on strongly while runner-up Fattal was wandering all over the track.
“He did not enjoy the kickback early on, said Dobbs. “But when we were able to get out of it he picked up the bridle and did it well enough in the end. It was not a good race but he did all we could ask of him.”
The opening 1600m handicap, the Wathba Stud Farm Cup For Private Owners, was won by Tha’Er by Nizam, ridden by Xavier Ziani and a third winner of the season for trainer Saeed Hadher Al Mazrouei. Tha’Er had provided one of those previous victories for Al Mazrouei, owner of the horse, when winning a 1400m handicap at the course in January.
“The trainer was pretty hopeful,” said Ziani. “He had won at 1600m in the past so we knew he would stay and he won nicely enough in the end.”
With the maximum field of 15 facing the starter in the 1800m handicap it looked, on paper, ultra competitive but that proved to be far from the case with Munaaf (Bibi De Carrere) winning very easily.
Trained by Ahmed Al Mehairbi for Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Munaaf and jockey Szczepan Mazur stormed clear inside the final 300m, crossing the line over 11 lengths clear of his rivals. It was a second career victory for the six-year-old and the first on dirt after success in a 1400m handicap on the Abu Dhabi turf in November last year.
“The further we went the better he was going,’ said Mazur. “He won easily in the end and it was a good performance.”
W’san Stables trainer Jaci Wickham and rider Richard Mullen combined with Murawih W’Rsan (TRONASONIC(US) to produce a win in the third try when landing a 1400m maiden.
The finale, the longest race of the UAE season and final contest of the Al Ain campaign, was the 5100m Final Leg Of The Al Ain Marathon Series (Prize Money – AED 120,000 – $33,000), won by Balad Al Reef (Bibi De Carrere(FR) under Fernndo Jara. Owned by Al Ajban Stables and trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi, it was a third career win for the five-year-old entire who has now won at Al Ain, Jebel Ali and Sharjah.