5 November 2016, Abu Dhabi ~ Racing returns to the Abu Dhabi turf on Sunday evening and all eyes will be on American challenger, Paddy’s Day. The Scott Powell-trained Purebred Arabian faces 11 rivals in the featured AED125,000 ($34,000) Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Prep for Purebred Arabians.
This is a 1600m conditions contest which runs over the same course and distance as the world’s richest Purebred Arabian race, the €1.2million Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown, set to be staged a week later on 13 November.
Powell is also one the co-owners of Paddy’s Day, a multiple Grade One winner in his homeland. The five-year-old bay recently won the USA’s Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Triple Crown for the second season in a row (2015, 2016).
With five wins in his last eight races, Paddy’s Day is in top form, however, his American success has all been achieved on dirt and traveling left-handed. Now he faces the challenge of totally different conditions at the right-handed Abu Dhabi turf course. In fact, his only previous race under such conditions was in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown last year, and on that occasion he failed to impress, finishing last.
Understandably, the lure of the incredible prize money on offer next week has tempted connections back for another go. Sunday’s Prep race provides Paddy’s Day a great opportunity to further familiarize himself with the conditions he will again face in the big race.
“He seems in great form and had a look at the track on Thursday morning,” said Powell.“He has taken the trip well and it is exciting to be back here for such an amazing event. This opportunity for a prep race before next week is ideal for him and we are really looking forward to running him.”
Pat Dobbs with a wealth of local experience, looks a good jockey booking for Paddy’s Day that will likely face a genuine test against domestic hopes proven under the conditions.
Among the top contenders for Opening Day is Shateh, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mansour Al Nahyan, trained by Majed Al Jahouri and the mount of Richard Mullen on Sunday. The seven-year-old was meant to compete in last year’s Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown but was withdrawn at the last minute.
Shateh hasn’t raced since the last UAE racing season eight months ago, which was highlighted by a win in the Group 3 Al Ruwais over 1000m at Abu Dhabi. He seemingly bettered that effort in two defeats that followed. On both occasions he was beaten by subsequent Kahayla Classic winner, AF Mathmoon, that he chased home in the 1400m Group 2 Bani Yas on the Meydan dirt and then back at Abu Dhabi, in the 1400m Group 1 Liwa Oasis.
“He is a nice horse and I am really looking forward to riding him,” said Mullen. “He has a good record fresh and will hopefully, not be far away where it matters.”
Like Paddy’s Day, the Eric Lemartinel-trained Abu Alabyad did take aim at the Jewel Crown’s €1.2million jackpot last year, faring a lot better than his American rival when finishing fifth. The mount of Gerald Avranche, he appears the best hope of the five runners that Lemartinel saddles for his main patron, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Abu Alabyad has not won since the 2015 Group 1 HH The President’s Cup, over 2200m, but has tasted victory over this shorter trip and looks certain to be able to stay on course for the entire race.
Adrie de Vries rides stable companion RB Torch, that looks like Lemartinel’s other main hope. Star jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, who normally has first choice of the yard’s runners, is required to ride AF Maqayes for his main employer, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
“It is a tough race and we will find out if he is good enough at this kind of level,” said O’Shea. “He kept improving last season, winning six times over shorter trips but should stay the mile and can hopefully have another good season.”