First Abu Dhabi Race of the Season
8 November 2020, Abu Dhabi, UAE ~ Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club staged their first fixture of the new campaign on Sunday evening, 8 November, highlighted by the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown Prep, a 2200m rated conditions contest, won stylishly by the classy Somoud under a very confident ride from Richard Mullen.
Having initially raced in midfield, always traveling strongly, Mullen’s mount cruised into contention behind the leaders with about 700m remaining before sent to the lead at the top of the straight with 350m left to cover. They never looked in any danger thereafter with the apple of trainer Jean de Roualle’s eye powering home to score an impressive success, a sixth career win, all in the UAE where he has raced just 11 times.
Homebred, the Yas Racing-owned 6-year-old entire landed his final three outings of the last campaign, a handicap over Sunday’s course and distance, the Group 3 Al Ain Mile and the Group 1 Emirates Championship, again over this 2200m track and trip.
It was actually the first time he had been saddled by De Roualle who said: “Mr Al Mehairbi did very well with this horse last season and I am delighted to have him in the yard. I love this horse, he is so talented, but also a real gentleman and pleasure to deal with.
“We have four weeks until the big race which is perfect and I am hoping this horse can land that prize which I have not won before.”
Mullen added: “He is a very smart horse as we saw last season. Jean has done very well with him, as did Ahmed Al Mehairbi who trained him last season. He has improved so much, from handicaps into Group One races and the fact that the big race is over 2200m now certainly suits him. Hopefully we will go there with a nice chance.”
Win time: 2:29.80. AF Al Buraq settled for second and Harrab came in third.
The meeting kicked off with a 1400m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE and proved a memorable occasion for apprentice Hugo Lebouc who, on just his eighth local mount, registered his first winner aboard Al Ajeeb W’Rsan for Jaci Wickham, immediately equaling her tally from last season.
Sporting the silks of Sheikh Hazza bin Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Lebouc, who is based at Al Asayl Stables with fellow Frenchman Eric Lemartinel, settled his mount in midfield before asking him to close just after halfway. Switched wide off the home bend, they flew home to snatch the initiative about 150m out and staying on strongly to win well.
A 4-year-old colt, the winner was making just his fourth racecourse appearance and has finished second on debut and third on his previous appearance in March.
A delighted Lebouc, who was a replacement for the injured Pat Dobbs, said: “I have 14 winners in France and it is great to get one here and so early in my first season here in the UAE.”
Lebouc appeared set to complete a rapid double in the following 1400m maiden, for 3-year-olds, having gone straight to the front on the Lemartinel-trained debutante Almahroosa, only to be collared close home by Fabrice Veron aboard stable companion Mujeeb for the trainer’s main patron, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In a race all 12 were appearing in public for the first time, there was drama at the start where Oboe deposited the unfortunate Adrie de Vries on the Abu Dhabi turf. Meanwhile, Almahroosa led the field at a decent gallop, tracked by Mujeeb and the pair appeared to have the race to themselves throughout the short straight, before RB Kindred threw down a late challenge under apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi, just failing to snatch second.
Veron said: “That is a good result for the team with both horses making good debuts. The filly had a very light weight and my horse has had to work very hard to get past, but has shown a very good attitude.He is a horse I like and one who should improve and will stay further.”
It was then a similar story in a 2200m handicap with AF Al Aassi making a bold bid from the front under Bernardo Pinheiro, only to be denied close home by Onward but having enough left in the tank to hold on for second ahead of Waadh. Ridden by Connor Beasley, the 5-year-old has now won four times for Abdallah Al Hammadi and his main patron, Al Ajban Stables. Having been well away from the stalls, Beasley was content to bide his time, settling nearer last than first before easing into contention on the back straight. Once in the home straight, they finished with purpose to lead in the final 25m.
Beasley said: “This is a very versatile horse and was in good form last season on both turf and dirt. Last season included wins for him over this course and distance, so I knew conditions were not a problem and he has really finished his race off strongly.”
The 1600m handicap for horses in private ownership produced a nail biting finish with Tadhg O’Shea, riding for his main employer Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and trainer Ernst Oertel, driving AF Arrab to a narrow success over MH Wari. Homebred, the 5-year-old entire was doubling his career tally in the process having fought back to regain the initiative right on the line. Having led from the outset, he was headed with about 75m remaining, but stuck his neck out to lead when it mattered.
Oertel said: “I thought he would win at Sharjah a fortnight ago, but he did not run well. That was a brave effort this evening and he will have a bit of a break now.
“He now has a turf win to add to his dirt success, so that gives us more options.”
The finale, a1400m handicap, the only Thoroughbred race on the card, was an absolute humdinger with the lead appearing to change hands on three occasions in the final 30m. Adventurous, who had taken pole position at the top of the straight was headed first by Welford whose time in front was short lived with Sugar Boy seeming to have snatched victory only for Richard Mullen to appear latest of all, on the outside, aboard Irish Freedom (Pioneerof The Nile) snatching victory in the very last stride.