21 December 2019, Sharjah, UAE ~ A pair of Purebred Arabian prestige handicaps were the joint highlights at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday afternoon, 21 December, on what proved another productive fixture for reigning UAE champions, owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, trainer Ernst Oertel and jockey Tadhg O’Shea, the trio combining for a double.
Completing their brace was AF Alwajel (AF Al Buraq) producing a marvelous performance to land the inaugural 1200m HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup prestige handicap. Athough they missed the break, O’Shea did not panic and they were soon in contention and, by halfway, chasing the leaders. Stable companions AF Mouthirah and AF Metawed, also bred by Al Nabooda, but AF Metawed now in training with Ahmed Al Shemali was the first to crack. As he dropped away in the final straight, eventually finishing third, it was left to the stablemates to fight out the finish, AF Mouthirah leading at the 300m pole, but soon headed by AF Alwajel keeping the faith to power away on his seasonal debut. Finishers one through four were all bred by Al Nabooda, with one and two trained by Oertel. AF Metawed is owned by Majid bin Musabbeh Al Mheiri and AF Meghwaar is owned by Emirates Syndicate.
O’Shea said: “This is a very nice young horse and he has done very well to win that today having missed the break; he was somewhat on the back foot as the gates opened and then sort of leapt forward. The jockey added: “He really carried me into contention though, quickened nicely and then battled on gamely. It is a great result for Mr Al Nabooda, Ernst and his whole team who, hopefully, have an exciting prospect in this fellow.”
2000m Conditions race
Earlier, a 2000m conditions race for horses who had not previously won more than twice went the way of dirt debutant AF Al Aassi(AF Maqan Alezz), confidently ridden by O’Shea for main employers Al Nabooda and Oertel. Settled well off the early speed set by Richard Mullen aboard Tarras, the eventual winner cruised into contention with fully 800m remaining before, about 400m later, sent for home by O’Shea. Mullen’s mount rallied, briefly threatening to regain the initiative, but it was soon apparent that was not going to happen and AF Al Aassi won comfortably with Tarras holding on for second. It was a second career victory, on his eighth start, for the homebred 4-year-old, his previous success recorded over 1600m in an Abu Dhabi maiden back in January.
O’Shea said: “I was always pretty confident and traveling well. He really carried me into contention strongly down the back straight and, knowing he stays well, I was happy to go for home from the home turn and had a very willing partner.”
HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup
The first renewal of the 1700m HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup prestige handicap, a race won last year by subsequent dual Group One winner AF Maher, was won impressively by Somoud (Munjiz), doubling his career tally in the process on his fifth local start and third on dirt. A maiden winner over 1800m at Al Ain in April, the 5-year-old homebred entire was second, over 1400m at the same track, on his one previous start this year and was always traveling strongly under Noel Garbutt. Riding for Yas Horse Racing Management and Ahmed Al Mehairbi, celebrating his first winner of the season after 15 previous runners.
Short of room on the home turn, Garbutt was able to pull his mount off the rail early in the straight, delivering his decisive challenge on the outside of battling rivals Inthar and eventual runner-up Yaraa.
Garbutt said: “That was a very good effort and this is a nice horse. I was always going well and the only moment of worry I had was when a bit short of room entering the straight, but when a gap appeared he picked up very well.
“I am not sure what the plan is, but wherever he runs next time he should be very competitive because he has good placed form on turf, so is clearly versatile.”
The only Thoroughbred contest, a 1200m handicap, looked particularly competitive on paper with the maximum field allowed of 16 going to post, but as it transpired, only a handful were ever able to get involved with Mankind, originally first reserve, setting a blistering gallop under Szczepan Mazur. The pair had burned off the vast majority of their rivals by halfway at which point Dangerous Thought, who had forfeited ground with a tardy start, was starting to ease into contention on the far rail under Sam Hitchcott.
Restricted to 3-year-olds foaled in the UAE, the prize for the opening 1200m maiden was won convincingly by ES Abu Mousa(Azzam Al Zobair), trained on the track by Ibrahim Aseel for racecourse chairman Sheikh Abdulla bin Majid Al Qassemi who also bred the colt. Well beaten over 1400m on the Abu Dhabi turf when slowly away making his debut in late October, he clearly derived plenty of benefit from that experience as he broke sharply on this occasion and was always to the fore under Antonio Fresu before the pair scooted clear just after halfway.
Fresu’s mount galloped on resolutely over the final 300m, never appearing in any danger of being caught, crossing the line with a healthy advantage to the delight of his trainer.
“He works well on the Sharjah surface, so we were hoping for a better run this time,” Aseel said. “That was a very pleasing performance and this is a horse with plenty of speed and who is hopefully going to improve.”
Richard Mullen was never far off the pace aboard Brehaan (Munjiz), smooth winner of a 1700m maiden for fillies and mares aged four or more on just her second racecourse appearance having finished third on debut in a 1600m Al Ain maiden five weeks ago. Saddled by Argentine Ana Mendez for Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan who also bred the 4-year-old, she was sent to the front fully 800m from home and soon had the race in safekeeping.
Mullen said: “She ran well the first day and learned plenty. We thought this kind of trip would suit her and she did that nicely. Hopefully there is more to come from her as she is still learning about the game and well to done to Ana and her team who have done a great job getting her here in such good condition.”