Author: Duane Fonseca

HAVING GIVEN 2022 the perfect start with a stunning victory aboard Shahama in the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial, Adrie de Vries is looking forward to more joy in the coming months aboard the Fawzi Nass-trained filly. A daughter of Munnings, Shahama started her 3yo campaign off in style with a breezy finish that saw her win the 1400m conditions contest relatively comfortably by two and a half lengths with De Vries steering her expertly all along. Shahama broke evenly along with her 11 rivals and Dutchman De Vries kept her close to the rails, having reeled her in and settled her mid-division.

Once asked to go just before the turn for home, Shahama quickened nicely to split Zabeel-trained pair Shahzadi and Shinyar and take victory for owners KHK Racing, who paid $450,000 for her at Ocala in April. It was KHK Racing’s second victory, both wins supplied by Shahama, who had earlier shed her maiden tag by a whopping nine lengths in a course and distance maiden on 9 December.

“She is definitely a star,” De Vries announced. “She is so professional. Going around was going to always be tough, but she was so professional. It was her second start and of course she had an easy run first time out, and you never know how they’re going to handle it, but she took it really well and she did this in nice fashion.”

De Vries and Shahama did have a bit of traffic to negotiate on a dirt track that had gotten firm on account of heavy rain. And De Vries, a former German Champion Jockey, admitted his early nerves were gone as soon as Shahama hit the track. “I was a little bit nervous because the conditions were very different and she is a big filly, a big long filly and the track was very different today (on account of the rain), but she handled it very well,” said De Vries, who has enjoyed enormous success on UAE shores.

He won the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship twice with Jamr and Light The Lights in 2014 and 2018 respectively and has had a fair few wins on the Dubai World Cup Carnival programme over the years, winning the 2020 Group 3 Burj Nahaar and the 2018 Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal with Salute The Soldier and Jordan Sport respectively, who were both trained by Fawzi Nass.

Riding Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroortrained Prize Money, De Vries won the 2017 Group 2 Dubai City of Gold and last year’s Group 2 Singspiel Stakes with David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters. De Vries has twice won the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians with Jaafer and TM Fred Texas obliging in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

He told us in an interview last February he wanted a Thoroughbred winner on Dubai World Cup day and had his chance in the showpiece Dubai World Cup with Nass’ Salute The Soldier, who finished a creditable fifth behind the Michael Stidham-trained Mystic Guide who won the major chunk of the $12 million prize purse for Godolphin.

Getting back to UAE 1000 Guineas reckoning and 2021 witnessed Soft Whisper following up her UAE 1000 Guineas Trial success with victory in the main event, which has Listed status and is run over a slightly longer 1600m trip. And De Vries hopes Shahama can emulate the feat of that filly, trained by Bin Suroor for Godolphin.

He certainly feels the Trial would have propped Shahama up nicely for her next assignment which all going well is definitely the UAE 1000 Guineas on Friday, 28 January. Aside from local opposition, Shahama managed to beat European rivals in the Trial in the form of a trio of Godolphin imports: Beautiful Secret and Heart Of Summer trained by Bin Suroor and British Champion Trainer Charlie Appleby’s Silk Romance.

A hopeful De Vries added: “I was in a pocket for a little bit and was glad things didn’t go smoothly during the Trial because she learned something. “She won well first time but improved from that and in fairness to her, it was her raw talent that won the Trial because we were struggling for room momentarily.

“She has a big, long stride and is going to get better over further. She will have learned even more this time and the extra experience will hold her in good stead. She has that turn of foot and she keeps going and the extra furlong of the UAE 1000 Guineas would only suit her I would think. She is very exciting.

“We’ll see how she comes out of this but I think she is really very good.” De Vries feels Shahama is yet to produce her best and that could come in her next race. “She is a very professional filly and I’m sure she still has something left up her sleeve if something comes to her,” the 52yo said. “She is a lovely filly and we have always really liked her. “She can be a little bit lazy in the morning, but that’s a good sign. She does things so easy.” De Vries won’t mind as long as she doesn’t laze around on raceday.