NOT SURE we will ever get used to the Longines Sharjah Racecourse moniker but the UAE’s least heralded track, which is a travesty, seemingly never fails to deliver and this week’s offering is highlighted by the sole Thoroughbred race, the HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, a grandiose name for a 1700m handicap. This is just the second renewal, or third edition if you prefer, and Fazza Racing Stables will be seeking to maintain a 100% strike rate in the valuable contest. Last year, Salem bin Ghadayer saddled Philosopher to land the spoils but he was serving a suspension in 2018 when Bois De Boulogne scooped the prize for Sandeep Jadhav, his assistant before and after the ban. But more about him later, he has changed yards, so Bin Ghadayer relies on Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd’s Untold Secret, victorious on both his two most recent outings, over 1600m at Meydan in March, 1950m at Jebel Ali a fortnight ago.
The trainer is also responsible for three of the four reserves. Bin Ghadayer has made a positive start to the season but trails Doug Watson in the early seasonal standings and the American looks to hold very strong claims. He actually entered eight but with only 16 berths available in the starting stalls saddles six. His Golden Goal heads the weights in a race he finished third on his return from 722 days off on his local debut. A 6yo Dark Angel gelding, he then defeated subsequent Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile winner Chiefdom in a 1600m domestic handicap on the Meydan dirt.
That was sufficient to earn him a Dubai World Cup Carnival berth but, sadly for connections, injury ruled him out for the season. After almost a year away from the track, well just over ten months to be accurate, he was a closing second over 1400m in a Meydan handicap at the beginning of the month. For EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club), he saddles Right Flank who scraped in as number 16. Helal Al Alawi saddled the unbeaten Mystery Land, twice a 1400m winner at Jebel Ali, at the final meeting of last season in March and first of this new campaign a month ago. A 4yo gelded son of Sea The Stars, he faces a very different test here, having only ever run on a stiff straight track whereas Sharjah is pancake flat and a tight anti-clockwise circuit, but he has not put a hoof wrong thus far in his fledgling career. The aforementioned Bois De Boulogne is back for another crack but, although still owned by Ahmad Ghalita Almheiri, he will be having his first start for a new trainer, Mahmood Hussain.
Still an entire horse, his victory in the inaugural running of this race in 2018 was certainly among the career highlights for the 6yo son of Street Cry and he certainly has the potential to threaten a repeat victory. Missing the opening part of the season due to Covid-19 issues must have been frustrating, at best, for Musabbeh Al Mheiri but he hit the ground running with a Meydan treble last week. Interestingly he had a sole entry in this, Sheikh Hamdan’s Dalaalaat, a homebred 4yo Kingman gelding who was second on his final outing of last season, a 2000m dirt handicap at Meydan. Twice a winner in Britain for William Haggas, his trainer looks to have found a very suitable opportunity here. For the same owner, who actually has four in the final 16, Erwan Charpy saddles Tadbir, a 5yo Kodiac gelding who landed a 1400m Jebel Ali handicap just over a year ago. That is the longest trip over which he has competed to date but, as mentioned above, 1400m at Jebel Ali is a true stamina test over the distance so an extra 300m at Sharjah could well be within his range.
Race 1: AF Muqna’a
Race 2: Ashjaan (NB)
Race 3: Fertile Du Croate
Race 4: AF Mahaleel
Race 5: Golden Goal (Nap)
Race 6: Daber W’Rsan