€1.2m at Stake in New G1 Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown
7 November 2015, Abu Dhabi, UAE ~ Abu Dhabi kick off their new season in spectacular style on Sunday with the inaugural running of the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian race, the €1.2million Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown.
A powerful and maximum field of 16 has assembled for the 1600m highlight, with runners from America and Europe joining their illustrious local counterparts.
Heading the home challenge is Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Manark, winner of the Dubai Kahayla Classic at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night on his most recent outing.
Trained by Erwan Charpy, he is the mount of the owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill. He has won two of his three local starts, both on dirt, but does also have four turf victories to his credit in Europe.
“We are really looking forward to the race,” said O’Neill. “Obviously it is a very strong field but he is a good horse and has been working very nicely in his preparation. Meydan is obviously a different surface and left-handed as opposed to Abu Dhabi which is turf and right-handed but it should not be an issue. We are hoping for a big run.”
Nacer Samiri saddles his first runners this weekend, including both Thakif and Shateh in the big race. Szczepan Mazur rides the latter but the former, with Harry Bentley sporting the silks of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, looks the main hope. They won the equivalent race on the card last year when chased home by Shateh.
Eric Lemartinel is another locally-based trainer doubly represented with Gerald Avranche aboard Abu Alabyad for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, joined in the field by the unbeaten Abhaar. Representing Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea as he seeks to make it six wins from as many starts and already has three course and distance victories to his name.
Based in Qatar, Alban de Mieulle always has to be respected on his forays to the UAE and he has snapped up the services of Olivier Peslier for his Kalino but he appears to have a bit to find.
On the whole, the American challenge will be racing on turf for the first time and going right-handed will be alien to them also. That said, Paddy’s Day and So Big Is Better, trained by brothers Scott and Mark Powell respectively, are certainly very useful performers.
Aged 11 and seeking a 30th career victory, So Big Is Better Is the oldest runner in the field and does have two turf outings on his record, way back in 2008 and well beaten both times.
He has undoubtedly improved since then so it will be interesting to see how he handles the grass. He beat Paddy’s Day a neck on his most recent outing but has finished behind his old adversary more often than not in the past.
“If he handles the surface we have to be very hopeful,” said Mark Powell. “He has taken the trip very well and is in great form.”
Paddy’s Day has won twice since his defeat behind So Big Is Better and has won 11 of his 14 career starts to date, all on dirt.
“It was a long trip but he seems in good shape,” said Scott Powell. Obviously it will be his first race on turf but he has been training well.”
The surface is not a query for the European challenge, arguably headed by Sahabba, trained in France by Jean-Marc De Watrigant.
The six-race card also features both the finals of HH Sheikh Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies’ (IFAHR) World Championship and HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Apprentice (IFAHR) World Championship.
Twelve apprentices and now 13 lady jockeys from around the world have qualified to contest the races through a series of qualifiers staged throughout the summer.