The eyes of Purebred Arabian racing enthusiasts worldwide will be firmly focused on the UAE capital this evening when Abu Dhabi stage, for the fourth time, the most valuable such race on the planet, the €1.2 million Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown. The 1600m contest, established in 1992 as the National Day Cup, has attracted a quality field of 14, including RB Burn, victorious in the 2016 renewal and first past the post last year, only to lose the jackpot first prize in the stewards’ room. They awarded the race to Muraaqib but, somewhat surprisingly, his owner, Sheikh Hamdan, is not represented this year.
Trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel, RB Burn has only had six outings since landing this two years ago. He also won the 1400m Group 1 Liwa Oasis, also at Abu Dhabi, but that, after the stewards’ intervention 12 months ago, is his only actual victory in the interim. He sports the colours of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa and is joined in the field by stable companion Mawahib, owned by his father, Lemartinel’s main patron, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. On ratings, she has plenty to find but, like her stablemate, is at least a course and distance winner having taken a conditions race under these conditions in December of last year. Also representing the Al Nahyan family is Al Shamoos, in her case owned by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed and trained in France by Charles Gourdain. Julien Auge rides this 4yo filly whose most recent outing was a winning one, landing the 2000m Arabian Trophy des Juments at ParisLongchamp. She did win, albeit in lesser company, over 1400m as recently as July so certainly has the speed for this test.
If handling the drop in trip, Fazza Al Khalediah appears a massive danger to all arriving here on the back of winning the 2000m Arabian World Cup, also at ParisLongchamp, for trainer Michal Borkowski, saddling his first UAE runner. As was the case in France, Italian jockey Pierantonio Convertino, seeking a first UAE victory after a fruitless five rides at Jebel Ali in October 2015, will be in the saddle. This will be the shortest trip over which he has competed since making a winning debut over 1400m in May 2017 as he bids to add to a formidable record being beaten just once in 11 starts. The Omani Royal Cavalry always have a formidable string of Purebred Arabians and rely on Al Chammy, trained by Said Al Badi and last seen when victorious at Newbury during Sheikh Hamdan’s big Dubai International Arabian Raceday. That was over 1200m in the Jebel Ali Racecourse Za’abeel International Stakes under Olivier Peslier who is replaced on this occasion by Pat Dobbs.
Meanwhile, Peslier, whose daughter, Megane, rides in the ladies’ race, partners Joudh for Yas Horse Racing Management and trainer Didier Guillemin whose The Right Man won the 2017 Al Quoz Sprint. She chased home Al Shamoos at ParisLongchamp, when Peslier was claimed to ride a rival, but the pair were previously victorious, at the big Newbury meeting, in the Group 1 Shadwell Arabian Stallions Hatta International Stakes. Jean de Roualle, who prepares most of the Yas Horse Racing horses based locally, saddles Rmmas and a second horse to carry the silks of Sheikha Fatima bint Mansoor Al Nahyan whose first, Loraa, won the 2017 Group 1 HH the President Cup. Richard Mullen rides but they look to have plenty to find and Rmmas was a well beaten ninth in this last year.
Under new ownership and management, Chaddad is a first Purebred Arabian runner for Sandeep Jadhav and Royston Ffrench will be sporting the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. His most recent racecourse appearance was an excellent second in Meydan’s Group 1 Kahayla Classic, over 2000m on the dirt in March when trained by Sultan bin Mohd Al Hajri for Aaisha Yousuf Mohd Al Balushi. The only Thoroughbred race on the card is a 1600m conditions contest, the Martyrs Cup and, basically, the prep for the Listed National Day Cup, over the same course and distance, four weeks later. Shamaal Nibras has won this race in each of the last two seasons for EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club), Doug Watson and Pat Dobbs. Conceding weight to all bar one, as he was last year, he should make a bold bid to complete the hat-trick with stable companion, Basateen, one of the main dangers.
The one he meets on level terms is Championship, to be saddled by Ahmad bin Harmash and third to Shamaal Nibras, to whom he was conceding weight, in this two years ago. He then, unpenalised, reversed the form in the National Day Cup itself before a Dubai World Cup Carnival campaign that included Group Two victories in both the Al Fahidi Fort and Zabeel Mile. A setback, sadly, ruled him out of both Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup night. He ran just three times last season, all at the carnival this year, highlighted by a close second in his attempt to defend his Zabeel Mile crown.