A pair of Purebred Arabian Prestige handicaps were the joint highlights at Sharjah Longines Racecourse last Saturday afternoon on what proved another productive fixture for reigning UAE champions, owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, trainer Ernst Oertel and jockey Tadhg O’Shea, the trio combining for a double. Completing their brace was AF Alwajel who produced a marvellous performance to land the inaugural 1200m HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup prestige handicap, he and O’Shea having missed the break. The jockey did not panic though and they were soon in contention and, by halfway, chasing the leaders, his stable companion AF Mouthirah and AF Metawed, like the other pair bred by Al Nabooda but this one now in training with Ahmed Al Shemali and the first to crack.
As he dropped away, eventually finishing third, it was left to the stablemates to fight out the finish, AF Mouthirah leading at the 300m pole but soon headed by AF Alwajel who then powered away on his seasonal debut. Raced just three times previously, all last season, the 4yo homebred colt made a winning racecourse debut last November, here at Sharjah over 1000m and remains unbeaten on dirt, his other two starts both being on turf at Abu Dhabi, finishing second in two prestige contests, the Abu Dhabi Colts Classic and Emirates C o l t s Classic, beaten by another stable companion, AF Saab on both occasions. O’Shea said: “This is a very nice young horse and he has done very well to win that today having missed the break; he was somewhat on the back foot as the gates opened and then sort of leapt forward.
“He really carried me into contention though, quickened nicely and then battled on gamely. It is a great result for Mr Al Nabooda, Ernst and his whole team who, hopefully, have an exciting prospect in this fellow.” Earlier, a 2000m conditions race for horses who had not previously won more than twice went the way of dirt debutant AF Al Aassi, confidently ridden by O’Shea for his main employers Al Nabooda and Oertel. Settled well off the early speed set by Richard Mullen aboard Tarras, the eventual winner cruised into contention with fully 800m remaining before, about 400m later, sent for home by O’Shea. Mullen’s mount rallied, briefly threatening to regain the initiative but it was soon apparent that was not going to happen and AF Al Aassi won comfortably with Tarras holding on for second.
It was a second career victory, on his eighth start, for the homebred 4yo, his previous success recorded over 1600m in an Abu Dhabi maiden back in January. O’Shea, partnering his 50th UAE winner of 2019, said: “I was always pretty confident and travelling well. He really carried me into contention strongly down the back straight and, knowing he stays well, I was happy to go for home from the home turn and had a very willing partner.” The first renewal of the 1700m HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup prestige handicap, a race won last year by subsequent dual Group One winner AF Maher, was won impressively by Somoud, doubling his career tally in the process on his fifth local start and third on dirt.
A maiden winner over 1800m at Al Ain in April, the 5yo homebred entire was second, over 1400m at the same track, on his one previous start this year and was always travelling strongly under Noel Garbutt, riding for Yas Horse Racing Management and Ahmed Al Mehairbi, celebrating his first winner of the season after 15 previous runners. Short of room on the home turn, Garbutt was able to pull his mount off the rail early in the straight, delivering his decisive challenge on the outside of battling rivals Inthar and eventual runner-up Yaraa. Garbutt said: “That was a very good effort and this is a nice horse. I was always going well and the only moment of worry I had was when a bit short of room entering the straight but when a gap appeared he picked up very well. “I am not sure what the plan is but wherever he runs next time he should be very competitive because he has good placed form on turf so is clearly versatile.”
The only Thoroughbred contest, a 1200m handicap, looked particularly competitive on paper with the maximum field allowed of 16 going to post but, as it transpired, only a handful were ever able to get involved with Mankind, originally first reserve, setting a blistering gallop under Szczepan Mazur. The pair had burned off the vast majority of their rivals by halfway at which point Dangerous Thought, who had forfeited ground with a tardy start, was starting to ease into contention on the far rail under Sam Hitchcott. Mankind was galloping on resolutely but had no answer when Hitchcott’s mount drew level before quickening clear to win comfortably, providing his jockey his 100th UAE winner and a second career victory for the horse. Trained by Doug Watson for Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum, this was career start 28, 23 in the UAE, for the 6yo gelded son of Super Saver whose only previous success was registered over this course and distance in February.