19 January 2020, Abu Dhabi, UAE ~ After postponing a meeting after the bad weather of last week, racing returned to Abu Dhabi on Sunday, 19 January, the first meeting of 2020 in the capital, a six-race card featuring the HH The President Cup Prep, won in thrilling fashion by Tadhg O’Shea aboard Rmmas (Mahabb).
Riding for Jean de Roualle and Sheikha Fatima bint MansourAl Nahyan, O’Shea was happy to take his time in the middle of the pack before edging closer as the runners prepared to leave the back straight, seemingly tracking Richie Mullen aboard Harrab. Meanwhile, in this prep over the same 2200m as the Group 1 feature will duplicate, Darius Du Paon and Adrie de Vries were bowling along happily in front and, when the Dutchman committed for home at the 400m pole, they had most of their 13 rivals in trouble.
The exceptions were Harrab and Rmmas with the former wearing down De Vries’ mount with less than 100m remaining only to be snared in the final 50m by O’Shea and the classy Rmmas. Winner of the 1200m Group 3 Al Ruwais and 1400m Group 2 Liwa Oasis, both here at Abu Dhabi under Mullen in 2018, this was a first victory since April of that year, for the 7-year-old entire who has been plying his trade almost exclusively in Group 1 company since.
De Roualle said: “He is a wonderful horse who was third over this course and distance in the Group 1 Emirates Championship last year and deserved another victory. Remember, this is only the prep race and the actual big race is still three weeks away. Tadhg has given him a perfect ride and I am really thrilled to win again with him and delighted for the owner and everyone involved with the horse.”
O’Shea added: “That was a great spare ride on a very good horse. It must have been a tough choice for Richie, but I was delighted to get the call and that was a very good performance on his first outing since the Dubai World Cup meeting.”
The meeting kicked off with a 1600m maiden with at least half a dozen of the 15 runners vying for the lead on the home turn shortly after which debutante Omania (Lahoob) swept past early pacesetter AF Haddaf and shot clear under Omani apprentice Saif Al Balushi. They opened up a decisive advantage and were always holding the late challenge of Will Power who stayed on strongly under Pat Cosgrave.
A 4-year-old filly homebred by HE Al Sheikh Nasser Mohd Nasser Al Hashar, she was an eighth winner of the season for trainer Ibrahim Al Hadhrami and a first of the current campaign for the young jockey.
“I have had a second and a few thirds this season, so it is obviously nice to get a winner on the board,” Al Balushi said. “I have had four in each of the last two seasons and would like to at least match that. This is a nice young filly who was very professional on her debut and hopefully has more to offer looking ahead.”
Ana Mendez is enjoying a fruitful maiden season as a trainer and combined with Richard Mullen and Brehaan led close home to snatch the spoils in a 1600m conditions race for fillies and mares. Settled in midfield by Mullen, the mare made smooth progress as the runners left the back straight and were in the perfect position to throw down a decisive challenge in the final 50m to deny Faiza trying gallantly to make every post a winning one under Sandro Paiva.
It was an eighth winner this campaign for Mendez with turf debutante Brehaan, a 5-year-old Munjiz mare having just her fourth career start, doubling her winning tally after landing a 1700m Sharjah maiden under Mullen on her second and last outing of December 2019.
Mullen, sporting the silks of Al Wathba Racing, said: “She won over further at Sharjah, so I knew she would be staying on and she actually carried me into the race comfortably.
“The leader was not stopping though and I had to really ask her for an effort and she responded very well. She is clearly versatile with regards to underfoot conditions which opens up plenty of options and, hopefully, she is improving because she has few miles on the clock and had not raced before November.”
From his Millennium 1 Stables satellite yard, Simon Crisford has his team in good form and landed the only Thoroughbred contest, a 1600m handicap, courtesy of Craving under Connor Beasley. After staying on strongly in the last 300m, he got his head in front in the final strides, denying Daffg and Tafaakhor, as well as the fast finishing duo Al Battar and Harbour Spirit, in a blanket finish.
An hour later, Beasley was back in the winner’s enclosure, combining with trainer Helal Al Alawi to take the 1200m handicap, restricted to horses in private ownership, with Dahess D’Arabie (Dahess) , wining a relatively comfortable victor for owner, Saleh Omar Al bin Haidar.
Having chased the leaders throughout the first half of the race, Beasley drove the 6-year-old gelding to the front leaving the home turn and they never looked likely to be denied, the horse registering a fourth career success and second over course and distance having won a maiden under these conditions in March 2018.
Beasley said: “He has done that nicely in what had appeared a competitive race, but I was always pretty confident throughout and he quickened nicely when I asked him.”
The concluding 1400m handicap was won quite stylishly by Fertile Du Croate (Dahess), confidently ridden by Sam Hitchcott for Ibrahim Aseel and owner Ziad Galadari, the 5-year-old entire doubling his career tally in the process, on just his sixth start, having landed a 1400m maiden on the Al Ain dirt last February when scoring on his debut.
In midfield until the turn for home, Hitchcott was able to drive him between runners to hit the front 200m from home and the race soon in safekeeping.
“He has done that nicely in a strong race of its type,” Hitchcott said. “He has now won on turf as well as dirt and the 1400m really seems to suit him.”