5 March 2020, Al Ain, UAE ~ Al Ain staged the biggest race of their season on Thursday, 5 March 2020 when 13 went to post for the 1600m Group 3 Al Ain Mile and it lived up to its potential.
A thrilling contest ensued in which seven of the 13 runners held serious claims entering the final 200m, where Somoud put his nose in front, where it stayed to cause something of a surprise outcome. Trained by Ahmed Al Meharbi, celebrating a double on the card, for Yas Racing, Somoud (Munjiz) entered the starting stalls with an official rating of 80, but was competing against runners rated as high as 120 in the shape of local and dirt debutant Shahm.
It was the latter who looked the most likely winner for a long way, but the new surface, lack of a recent outing and a trip probably short of his best perhaps caught him out, although he plugged on at the same pace to finish sixth.
MH Rahal, Brraq, AF Momtaz and finally Shadd’Ad had all led or threatened to snatch the prize in the final 300m, but with little more than 100m remaining, Connor Beasley drove Somoud to lead and his mount was able to thwart a renewed challenge from Shadd’Ad.
Completing a brace for the jockey also, the homebred 6-year-old entire was registering a fifth, but by far most important, career success and fourth on a dirt surface. He actually arrived on the back of a 2200m turf handicap success at Abu Dhabi and, in December, had landed the 1700m Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifya Al Nahyan Cup, a Prestige race at Sharjah.
Al Mehairbi said: “That is just brilliant and what a brave performance from our horse in a great horse race. We are all delighted and it has been a superb evening.”
Beasley added: “To be fair the trainer thought he would run well and the horse has shown a great attitude to tough it out at the death.”
Dahawi and Antonio Fresu turned the only Thoroughbred race, what had appeared a very competitive 1000m handicap, into a procession with a seemingly effortless victory. A 4-year-old gelded son of Heeraat, Dahawi landed both his first two career outings, on all-weather surfaces at Chelmsford then Kempton, early last year when trained in Britain by Hugo Palmer, but was winning for the first time since.
The following 2000m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE was arguably won even more easily with Fernando Jara and Aiz Alawda (VULKAIN D’ALBRET) carrying clear of 15 rivals, most of whom were toiling from a long way out, with about 350m remaining after which they were never in any danger of being caught. Despite a tardy start on just his fourth career appearance, Jara soon had the 4-year-old in midfield before cruising to challenge early in the straight and looking the likely winner with his rivals struggling. He did not disappoint to provide owner Saif Mohd Fan Abdulla Al Mehairbi a first ever winner with his 13th runner.
His brother, winning trainer Ahmed Al Mehairbi, said “He ran quite well on debut over 1600m here at Al Ain, but much better last week over the same trip. Fernando Jara rode him then and suggested we try further so he gets a lot of credit! His one disappointing run was his second one, on the Abu Dhabi turf, so I guess we will focus on the dirt tracks with him.”
Thirty minutes later Jara was celebrating a course and distance double, steering 2000m ES Nahawand (Big Easy) to a hard fought victory in a 2000m handicap in which they were involved in a titanic struggle with Pharitz Oubai for most of the straight before pulling clear in the final 100m. Riding in the colours of HE Abdulla Bakheet Saif Murshed Al Marar, Jara’s mount was supplying both the owner and trainer, Mohammed Daggash, belated first winners of the season and just a second ever for the handler.
An 8-year-old entire, it was a second career victory for the horse, adding to a 1200m debut success at Sharjah in December 2016 and he clearly relished stepping up to this trip for the first time. He and Jara were second, over 1400m, here at Al Ain just last Friday.
A delighted Daggash said: “Fernando was keen we try this horse over further having ridden him twice, over 1200m then 1400m, when he was staying on. Luckily we listened to his advice and it is nice to get another winner on the board.”
The meeting kicked off with a 1400m handicap for horses in private ownership and, as is so often the case in these races, it went to Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, Ernst Oertel who trains the majority of his horses and the owner’s retained jockey Tadhg O’Shea, in this case courtesy of AF Tathoor (Mahabb).
Settled about fifth in a race contested at a generous gallop, O’Shea eased his mount into contention entering the long straight where, for about 300m, they were locked in battle with AF Senad before shaking that rival off with 250m remaining with the race in safekeeping. A homebred 7-year-old mare, the winner was doubling her career tally, her other success posted on just her second career start, over this course and distance, in February 2017. She had unseated the unfortunate Antonio Fresu on her previous outing, at Sharjah, 12 days ago.
Al Nabooda said: “She is a lovely mare and runs more good races than bad ones, so it is great to see her win again, especially after unseating her jockey last time when badly hampered. “
Representing the ever powerful Al Asayl team, Al Jazi (Al Nasr) ran out the easy winner of the finale, a 1600m handicap, storming clear at the top of the straight under Fabrice Veron sporting the silks of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for trainer Eric Lemartinel. An 8-year-old, the homebred has now won seven times, twice this season having also scored in a 2000m Sharjah handicap in December.
Lemartinel said: “She is a good mare who has been running well on the whole this season and it is nice to see her win again.”
Having just her third career start, Winked (Thoroughbred) and Connor Beasley made virtually every post a winning one in the 1600m maiden, eventually posting a relatively comfortable victory having seen off numerous challengers before pulling clear in the final 350m. Trained by Abdallah Al Hamamdi for Al Ajban Stables, the homebred 4-year-old filly had finished second, over 1400m here at Al Ain on debut before occupying third spot, just last Sunday, in a 1600m maiden on the Abu Dhabi turf.
Beasley said: “Fair play to connections for bringing her out so quickly and to the filly because she has shown a great attitude and is clearly tough. The trainer was pretty confident she would run well and she did it nicely in fairness.”