15 February 2020, Al Ain, UAE ~ Racing at Al Ain on Friday, 14 February 2020 was officially highlighted by a quality 1800m handicap won in determined fashion by Yaraa, completing a double on the card for jockey Richard Mullen.
Winning number 11 for Ana Mendez, the 5-year-old mare, running in the colors of Al Wathba Racing, tracked early leader Prado Du Panjshir that was seeking a third Al Ain victory this year.
The race developed into a duel throughout the entirety of the straight. Mullen’s mount looked to be going best but had to work hard to get past Prado Du Panjshir, battling under Antonio Fresu and, once headed about 250m out, again fighting back. It was only in the final 75m Mullen could afford to relax with Yarra (SARRAB) doubling her career tally with her first UAE and dirt success after arriving from France in 2019.
“I had a very willing partner today,” Mullen said. “Three starts ago she ran very well when second in a good race at Sharjah but had not built on that. Fair play to Ana and her team because they had her in great shape for this race today. That 1800m is probably as far as she would want stamina wise, certainly at the moment, but with the determined attitude she showed, it should hold her in good stead.”
The only Thoroughbred contest, a 2600m handicap, proved the ideal stamina test for Blue Sovereign, who led close home under Richard Mullen for Al Bait Mutawahed Team and Erwan Charpy. Settled towards the rear of the main group of runners, the 5-year-old Teofilo gelding started to make headway early in the straight but it was only in the final 150m he really loomed as a danger before sweeping past East Asia and Antimo who has been locked in battle for fully 700m. Previously a maiden, after 11 starts, all in the UAE and for these connections, Blue Sovereign was third on his only previous Al Ain visit, staying on at the same pace over 2000m behind Antimo, four weeks ago.
The opening 1400m handicap, for horses in private ownership, looked competitive on paper, but only one horse among the 15 was ever really competitive with Fabrice Veron sending Shivan OA (Dahess) straight to the front and the pair hardly seeing another rival for owner Saleh Omar Ali bin Haidar. A welcome winner for Helal Al Alawi who trains in Al Ain, the 9-year-old gelding was registering a third career victory, second in the UAE for Al Alawi and first since November 2017 when successful over 2200m on the Abu Dhabi turf.
Veron said: “The trainer was pretty confident the horse would run well and wanted me to be positive because the horse stays further. He was happy out in front, quickened clear at the top of the straight and, although getting tired, galloped on well.”
Al Alawi was celebrating a double on the card, this time combining with Connor Beasley to land the 1800m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE with Mihwal (NIESHAN). Having tracked the early speed he was sent to the front at the top of the long straight and able to fight off various challengers with a gutsy display. A 4-year-old colt, he is homebred by Ali Haddad who raced his sire, Nieshan, with distinction racking up race victories with him including the Group 1 HH The President Cup in 2012 and three successive Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 triumphs between 2011 and 2013.
Haddad said: “That is very gratifying to win with a home bred and one by my good horse Nieshan. I also raced the dam at the end of her career but she did not win for me. We hoped the 1800m would suit him and it has. He showed a very good attitude which bodes well looking ahead.”
A 1400m maiden was won quite impressively by Rokbello Du Cayrou (AF Albahar), making it third time lucky for owner HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trainer Eric Lemartinel. Seemingly struggling at halfway under Veron, he made smooth progress early in the straight before hitting the front about 300m out after which he was never in danger of being caught. A 4-year-old colt, he has only run at Al Ain, finishing fourth on debut over 1600m, under Veron, in December then third, over 1800m when ridden by Adrie de Vries, four weeks ago.
Lemartinel said: “He is probably better over further but this was the only race for him and he has done that nicely. He is only a young horse who, hopefully, is only going to improve.”
Apprentice Sean Kirrane continues to impress and was celebrating the sixth winner of his debut UAE season when landing a lesser 1800m handicap aboard Inthar (Kaolino) for Khalifa Al Neyadi who both owns and trains the 10-year-old. Always prominent, Kirrane asked his mount to challenge stable companion AF Mozhell leaving the home turn only for that rival to kick clear under Szczepan Mazur. Mazur’s mount kept responding for pressure, but could not shrug off Kirrane and Inthar who gained the initiative about 150m from home to ultimately win quite comfortably with Opera snatching second from the gallant AF Mozhell in the dying strides. Inthar has now won four times, all on dirt but this was his first victory since December 2018 when he landed a 2000m handicap here at Al Ain.
A delighted Al Neyadi said: “Both of my horse have run very well and I actually thought AF Mozhell was going to hold on for a moment but Inthar was just too strong in the final 200m.”
The concluding 2000m conditions race, for horses who had not won more than once, supplied the perfect opportunity for Dagui Lotois (Dahess) to record a second career success having on his previous appearance landed a maiden here at Al Ain over 1800m. Partnered as he was then by Elione Chaves, the 4-year-old is actually unbeaten on dirt after failing to win in eight turf outings, two in the UAE. Trained by Ahmed Al Mehairbi for Al Rahmani Racing, it would appear connections have found the key to him because, having always traveled well, he posted a comfortable success over some decent opposition.