By Duane Fonseca
Apprentice rider Abdul Aziz Al Balushi’s season got better Friday night as he added the PA Prestige Al Ain Sprint to his resume with victory aboard Helal Alalawi’s Ghazwan Al Khalediah, who went gate to post in the 1000m affair along the dirt chute.
Owned by Abu Dhabi Racing, the 9yo Jalood Al Khalidiah entire had won a course and distance affair in December. And he went willingly to the front in the hands of Al Balushi Friday night after the gates flew open.
With three giving chase, Al Balushi asked Ghazwan Al Khalediah for a kick 300m out and he obliged without hesitation to win by a comfortable two and a quarter lengths at the post from Elise Jeanne’s Bernardo Pinheiro driven MH Rahal, who edged Majed Al Jahoori’s Rawaa, with Sam Hitchcott up, by a short head.
UAE Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea further strengthened his grip at the top of the championship leaderboard with a double for Ernst Oertel, who enhanced his chances of winning the UAE Trainers’ Championship as he climbed to within one of table topper Doug Watson. After last night, Oertel has 36, with Watson’s success in the only Thoroughbred contest on the card keeping him only just ahead.
O’Shea and Oertel won the card opening Wathba Stallions Cup for Private Owners race, a 1400m handicap with AF Arrab and later the 1000m maiden with AF Sultan, both homebred and owned by Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah, the UAE Champion Owner who is looking solid to defend his title. Should Oertel, O’Shea and Al Naboodah triumph, it will be a second clean sweep by the trio, who won their respective championships in 2019.
On the other hand, Watson, in search of a seventh UAE Trainers’ Championship, held on to top spot on the leaderboard as Fabrice Veron won the 1400m handicap with Far Sky, who picked up a first career success on his 10th start when winning by a neck from Dubai Canal.
Like Oertel, Abdallah Al Hammadi also scored twice with Richard Mullen helping land the 2000m maiden with Ozone Layer and Szczepan Mazur nicking the 2000m handicap with Kesra.
Mohammed Al Shamsi and Saif Al Balushi were the other trainer-rider pair to visit the winners’ enclosure, AS Qoot getting them there after winning the 1600m maiden.