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Five minute barrier should be target for Marathon runners

15/02/2018
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ROUND 3 Of The Al Ain Marathon Series is the official highlight on this seven race card and six have been declared for the 4100m handicap, including last year’s first and second. Twelve months ago, in the guise of the Al Ain Stayers’ Trophy, it was won by Balad Al Reef, trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for his main patron, Al Abjan Stables and a regular in these staying contests at Al Ain. The mount of Fernando Jara, as he has been for nine of his ten previous starts, he was also victorious in the concluding leg of the series last year, over a mammoth 5100m.

Runner-up last year was RB Rich Surprise, representing the Al Asayl team of Sheikh Khalifa and Eric Lemartinel, ridden on that occasion by Gerald Avranche but their only representative this season and thus the mount of Tadhg O’Shea today. Like his old rival, he rarely misses any of these marathon contests but has yet to win one; among his six career victories, the longest distance he has registered a success is 2200m. Both have at least proved they stay the 4100m trip, though have tried it just the once previously, whereas Shamikh Al Wathba is stepping further into unknown territory.

Trained, on the Al Ain track, by Jean de Roualle, he arrived here seeking a third consecutive victory having won the first two legs of the marathon series. In the first one, over 2600m, he was actually awarded the race subsequently, but more about that in a minute, with RB Rich Surprise in second, Balad Al Reef third. Stepped up to 3200m for the second round, he was again victorious, chased home by Bayan, Balad Al Reef and RB Rich Surprise. Assuming the extra 900m does not inconvenience him, he looks the one to beat with Champion Jockey, Richard Mullen, riding in the silks of Yas Horse Racing Management. For the same connections he could have partnered Ajjaj, as he did for the horse’s former trainer and when the pair finished in front of Shamikh Al Wathba in that 2600m first leg.

However, Ajjaj subsequently tested positive for a prohibited substance and was placed last. That was in the middle of December and this is his first run since and under the tutelage of De Roualle. Adrie de Vries takes the ride. Bayan, mentioned above as runner-up in the most recent race in the series, over 3200m, had previously won a 2000m handicap here at Al Ain. He clearly goes well on the track but is another stepping into unknown territory stamina wise. It looks a fascinating clash and, with only six runners, could well develop into a tactical battle with the proven stayers unlikely to allow the race to be contested at a sedate pace. For the record, the winning time last year was just over five minutes.

A 1600m conditions contest is, arguably, the main support race and in which a case can be made for many. These include Hamares, to be ridden by Mullen for Helal Al Alawi and Al Asayl’s Zahee, as well as Ainhoa Topchef. Trained by Erwan Charpy, for Sheikh Hamdan, he is the mount of Antonio Fresu who was aboard when the horse made a winning local debut, on the Abu Dhabi turf, in November. He has not built on that but his trainer seemed to rate him a decent prospect and he is making his dirt debut on just his seventh career start, fourth locally. The 1800m handicap looks wide open with RB Goliath looking sure to run a big race, despite top weight, for Al Alawi with Silvestre de Sousa a taking jockey booking.

However, Mukaram, winner of his three most recent starts and with only five races to his name, must rate the one to beat under Tadhg O’Shea. Another leading hope for Sheikh Khalifa and Lemartinel, he has won twice over 1600m, once here, then at Jebel Ali, before following up over this course and distance a fortnight ago. The only Thoroughbred race is a 2000m maiden in which Broadcloth should at least go close for Mullen and Satish Seemar. Narrowly beaten, over the same course and distance in a handicap a fortnight ago, this looks a much weaker race. His stable companion, Immortalised, the mount of De Sousa, could be the main danger, seeking to become the first UAE winner sired by Frankel.

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07 Aug 2018
Issue Number: Issue 647
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Dubai playing a key role in British racing, says Jockey Club boss
Busybody Tadhg looks to scale mountains after climbing Hills
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