Not A household name outside of the UAE and perhaps not even among all racing fans locally, Sharjah Equestrian & Racing Club has consistently provided a marvellous dirt racing surface and the initiative management team, who have worked hard to improve prize money and new racing opportunities, should be applauded. And it should be highlighted subsequent Dubai World Cup Carnival Thoroughbred winners, including Storm Belt, Price Is Truth and Rafeej all registered first UAE victories here, not to mention dual Group One Purebred Arabian victor Versac Py and last year’s Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 scorer ES Ajeeb.
Of course we cannot guarantee any of today’s winners will reach such illustrious heights but it does at least offer connections hope. As is traditional, the six races include just the one for Thoroughbreds, a 1000m handicap won last year by Bedaveeya, a rare Thoroughbred filly to race in the UAE outside of the carnival at Meydan. Now a 5yo, the daughter of Tizway looked smart on that occasion but had already run, when second over 1200m at Jebel Ali, so was race fit and failed to fire in five subsequent outings. However, this will be just her second Sharjah appearance and Satish Seemar’s charge, who may be best caught fresh, clearly relished conditions last year and after those disappointments, finds herself running off a lower handicap mark than for that victory.
Owner Sayed Hashish had not celebrated a winner in the UAE since that of Ticket Holder, then trained by Beverley Deutrom, at Meydan in November 2016. That statistic was remedied last week with a Meydan double when the owner’s runners carried new colours which certainly appeared to be lucky. Now in the hands of Mahmood Hussain, based at Sharjah and boasting a 100% record this season having combined with Hashish to score with Mark Of Approval at Meydan, the 8yo Elusive Quality entire can race off a mark of 58 here, fully 22lb below his Meydan victory of almost three years ago. Off the mark last week at Abu Dhabi with Purebred Arabian Alnawar, Helal Al Alawi will be hoping to get his Thoroughbred campaign up and running.
His Serengeti Sky, a 5yo Lonhro gelding, finished last season in good form, including finishing third over 1000m at Al Ain. That said, his sole career victory was over 1400m at Epsom in a weak 2yo maiden on just his second career start in July 2016. Rated 81 after that success, he competes off 62 here and should be able to make his presence felt in a winnable race. The best of the Purebred Arabian action is a 1200m handicap won last year by ES Tango, trained on the track by Ibrahim Aseel for Sheikh Abdulla bin Majid Al Qassemi. They rely on ES Al Bal, who heads the weights, this time with the 5yo mare seeking to double her career tally having made a winning debut in a 1000m maiden on this very opening Sharjah card in 2017. Well beaten on the Abu Dhabi turf a fortnight later, she was not seen again until this March when showing she retains plenty of ability in a 1000m dash on dirt at Al Ain.
Owned and trained by Khalifa Al Neyadi, Inthar has the benefit of a run this season having been beaten less than a length when sixth over 2200m at Abu Dhabi eight days ago. A 9yo entire, he was third over this Sharjah 1200m in a weaker handicap on the same card in 2017. Rated 35 then, he finds himself on 59 here having found himself on the lofty perch of 70 after a 2000m success at Al Ain in January. Based at the picturesque and tranquil Jebel Ali Palace Stables, trainer Irfan Ellahi’s horses appear to have a penchant for the Sharjah surface so his JAP Malawih, beaten just a neck in a course and distance maiden on this card last year, is much respected.
A 4yo colt, homebred by Ellahi’s main patron, Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, he was then second again under identical conditions, beaten just a short head, before going one better over 1600m at Al Ain in January. Both narrow defeats at Sharjah were suffered at the hands of horses prepared by Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel for Champion Owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. That ever feared combination have both AF Meeqat and AF Thobor in this contest with Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea opting to partner the latter.