INTRODUCED to the calendar just last year to promote regional competition in the Purebred Arabian ranks, the 1700m GCC Cup is the undoubted highlight this afternoon as racing makes a welcome return to Sharjah for the first time since the end of December. The appeal of the concept, the race afforded Prestige status, cannot be doubted with no less than 41 entries received for the contest when announced on Monday. That said and somewhat surprisingly, only ten were declared. Tthe inaugural running went to Saudi Arabia, Mubasher Al Khalediah landing the spoils, courtesy of the stewards, for trainer Mutlaq bin Mashref who saddled the first three home, all owned by Al Khalediah Stables.
The Kingdom was again well represented at the entry stage but no runner from Saudi Arabia featured in the final ten. Local hero ES Ajeeb, trained on the track by Ibrahim Aseel for Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club chairman Sheikh Abdulla bin Majid Al Qassemi, was another notable name missing from the final declarations. In his absence, course specialist AF Alwajel looks the most likely winner for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and Ernst Oertel, the duo responsible for three runners. Unsurprisingly the choice of Tadhg O’Shea, the 5yo has only run seven times, winning three, each time at Sharjah where he remains undefeated. Opponents bred by Al Nabooda, Sheikh Hamdan’s AF Mahshoum and AF Sanad, owned and trained by Khalifa Al Neyadi, could be the main dangers.
The only Thoroughbred contest on the card is a 1200m handicap which appears a real conundrum for Pick Six players. For Sheikh Hamdan, Musabbeh Al Mheiri saddles Mutawakked, a 6yo gelded son of Kodiac who landed a 1400m Jebel Ali handicap on his seasonal debut in November. A 1200m Newbury maiden winner as a 2yo, he has just those two victories to his name and on his only other appearance this season was seventh over 1400m at Al Ain. Rashed Bouresly may only have celebrated a solitary winner so far this season but, on the whole, his horses have been running well, including Davy Lamp who was fourth over 1400m at Meydan a fortnight ago. The 5yo Shamardal gelding remains a maiden after seven starts but has shown more than enough ability to suggest he can win a race of this nature, especially with the straight Sharjah sprint track likely to suit.
With the Satish Seemar team in flying form, his 1000m course winners Bedaveeya and One Season can certainly not be safely ignored but, perhaps significantly, Richard Mullen has opted to ride stable companion Al Mustashar. A 5yo Shamardal gelding, Mullen’s mount was a good runner-up, over 1200m at Jebel Ali last January but has not really built on that, just his second start for current connections, in three subsequent outings, two this season.