5 December 2015, Sharjah, UAE ~ Saturday afternoon’s Sharjah meeting was highlighted by a 1700m handicap, the finale on the card, and The Secret, trained by Doug Watson, recorded a third consecutive course victory.
A maiden after his first seven starts, Watson’s charge finally put his head in front by the narrowest of margins, in a 2000m handicap on his seasonal return last month. The Secret (MADJANI) followed that up with a far more convincing success, also over 2000m, two weeks ago and coped admirably with the shorter trip here. As he did a fortnight ago, he made virtually all the running under Dane O’Neill, riding for his main employer HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“He has thrived this season,” said Watson. “As I have said many times he has always worked like a decent horse in the mornings but was not producing what we were seeing on the track. The first win was a big confidence boost for him and has been the catalyst for his improved form.”
For Watson, who celebrated four winners at Meydan on Thursday, his great start to the season was continuing after the earlier smooth success of Kokomo (AL NASR (FR), given a very positive ride by Pat Dobbs, in a 2000m conditions race.
Not the fastest away, Kokomo was rousted in the early stages to get to the front then was never headed. Winner of her final start of four last season, in a 1700m course maiden, she was denied on the line first time out this season by The Secret, in a 2000m handicap. She failed to land a blow on her one subsequent start, again behind The Secret, but bounced back in style on this occasion.
“She was in season it transpired the last day,” said Justin Byrne, representing winning owners EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club.) “We knew she was better than that and the idea was to try and get to the front today. Pat has given her a great ride and she has kept on strongly. She seems to go particularly well here at Sharjah and, hopefully, has more improvement in her as this was only her seventh start.”
Tadhg O’Shea rarely leaves Sharjah empty-handed and wasted no time getting on the scoresheet, driving AF Ashras (AF AL BURAQ) to a relatively comfortable victory in the opening 1200m maiden.
Trained by Ernst Oertel the four-year-old was having his fifth career start and third already this season. Conditions really appeared to suit and he was never far off the pace before pulling clear about 400m from home. The race was never in doubt afterwards.
“This is probably his kind of trip,” said O’Shea. “He ran over 1700m here at Sharjah last time and probably found it too far. Ernst had him very fit for today and he won nicely. It is a good start to the afternoon and Sharjah has been a lucky track for me in recent years.”
There was a distinct sense of déjà vu just 30 minutes later with O’Shea making virtually all on AF Thobor in a second 1200m maiden. It was another winner for Oertel, as well as Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, owner and breeder of both horses who also share the same sire being sons of AF Al Buraq.
Losing his maiden tag at the third attempt, AF Thobor could be called the winner at the halfway point when he skipped clear under O’Shea who could afford a look behind to see where the opposition was. The answer was well in arrears and struggling.
“He did that very well,” said O’Shea. “It has been a good season so far and there are plenty of good jockeys in that weighing room so it is always nice to ride winners. Again, credit to Ernst and his team for having the horse fit and ready.”
Oertel added: “Obviously it is great to get a double and both are nice young horses who should improve. A lot of my string are this type of baby and we are hoping to unearth a few good ones. We are looking forward to the rest of the season. Tadhg has ridden plenty of winners for me in the past and gets on well with these Purebred Arabians.”
The 1700m maiden provided the ideal opportunity for the Jaci Wickham-trained Inayat W’Rsan (TRONASONIC (US) to open his account at only the second time of asking and on his dirt debut. For jockey David Probert, it was a second UAE winner, after the victory of Can You Conga at Meydan on Thursday and his first locally on a Purebred Arabian.
O’Shea then appeared to have stolen the only Thoroughbred race on the card, a 2000m handicap, on the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Alraased.