Pinheiro and Hareer Al Reef winners
Racing at Al Ain on Saturday afternoon, March 20, was highlighted by the finale, The Al Ain Marathon Series (Final Leg) a 5100m handicap afforded Prestige status, ultimately dominated by the two horses prepared by Abdalla Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, Hareer Al Reef (Bibi De Carrere x Valdora by Dormane) denying Balad Al Reef (Bibi De Carrere x Valdora by Dormane).
Only six went to post with Jeemi (Al Nasr x Tornade Du Loup by Tornado De Syrah) leading from the outset, stalked by Bernardo Pinheiro who refused to leave the inside rail on the eventual winner, the other quintet all opting to ride slightly wide.
Pinheiro went to the front with about 2200m remaining and was probably never headed thereafter with Balad Al Reef, thrice a previous winner of this race, trying to challenge in the straight, but never getting to his full-brother, two years his junior.
The winner, an entire 8-year-old, had finished second on both previous attempts at this trip, last year behind Octave, another stable companion, and in 2019 when Balad Al Reef landed the prize for a third time. Ajjaj, winner of this in 2018 and victorious in the opening two legs of the series this season, never really threatened, finishing well beaten in third.
Pinheiro said: “I was keen to save ground, so stuck to the inside and the tactic has worked. This yard and trainer have a tremendous record in this race, so I was very happy to be riding for them and my horse has really just carried on galloping.”
The Wathba Stallions Cup For Private Owners Only, the opening 1000m handicap was won comfortably by Tadhg O’Shea aboard AF Thobor (AF Al Buraq x Voici Kossack by Bengali D'Albret) who was prominent throughout before dashing clear about halfway. Like in so many of these private owners’ races, it was another win for Ernst Oertel and Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda who also bred the winner. Now a 10-year-old, it was a seventh career success for the entire, sixth on dirt and fourth at 1000m, including scoring thrice over this course and distance.
Oertel said: “He is a nice, old horse to have around the yard and, after starting his season a bit slowly, is really running well and won again like we expected to. Tadhg does a great job on our horses and he is UAE Champion Jockey for good reason, as he keeps showing everyone.”
A 2000m maiden was turned into a rout by Al Mansour NF (Tabarak x Rolly Polly by Falina Des Fabries), apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi performing the steering for Byerley Racing and Helal Al Alawi who trains locally. Twice runner-up in his previous eight starts, both times over 1400m here in Al Ain, the 4-year-old grey colt entered the final bend in about fourth, travelling strongly and hugged the inside rail, saving ground.
Eased to the front with more than 400m remaining, he was never going to be caught and Al Alawi said: “He deserved that after some good runs in defeat, both here and on the Abu Dhabi turf. He is versatile, clearly stays well and can hopefully build on this.”
A maiden over 1800m, restricted to 4-year-olds foaled in the UAE, went to the Al Asayl team with Antonio Fresu sporting the silks of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for trainer Eric Lemartinel aboard Al Bateen (Al Nasr x Akba by Akbar).
Homebred, the colt was opening his account at the seventh attempt and, despite still showing signs of inexperience, ran out the comfortable winner, bettering his previous best, a third place finish, on his latest outing, over 2000m here at Al Ain, just last Friday.
Lemartinel said: “He ran very well when third last week behind our other two runners, but did not have too hard a race, so we were happy to bring him out again quickly. This horse should improve and we hope is going to be a nice one for next season as he matures.”
Owner and trainer were then denied a double in the following 1800m maiden for fillies and mares, Fabrice Veron and Sundus having to settle for second behind the impressive Jouna (Rabbah De Carrere x Waahiba by Akbar) who was making it third time lucky in her fledgling career. Homebred by Yas Racing, the 4-year-old filly was runner-up on both her first two career starts, over 1600m and then 2000m on this Al Ain surface where she is trained by Jean-Claude Pecout whose previous two UAE winners were both achieved by Brraq, winner of Al Maktoum Challenge R1 and the concluding third round, both Group One contests.
Winning jockey Ryan Curatolo said: “I was pretty happy throughout and we were quite confident because she had already run well here twice. I rode her the first time when she stayed on well over 1600m and saw her second run when perhaps 2000m was just a bit too far at this stage of her career. She could be a nice filly moving forward.”
The 1800m handicap produced a pulsating finish with apprentice Saif Al Balushi, who always looked confident, delivering Pharitz Oubai (Dahess x Laila by Tahar De Candelon) to lead in the very final strides, denying Dream De Montjoi with Taajer on both their girths in a very close third. Checked over by the vet before the race, the 6-year-old gelding had actually failed to win any of his 15 previous starts, but was finally off the mark for trainer Ibrahim Al Hadhrami and owner HE Al Sh Nasser Mohd Nasser Al Hashar.
His 13 dirt outings, prior to this, had seen him finish second on five occasions and third on a further four.
Al Hadhrami said: “This horse has been running consistently well, especially here at Al Ain, and I am delighted for everyone associated with him that he has finally put his head in front. Hopefully that will do his confidence a lot of good and maybe he can win a few now.”
The only Thoroughbred race on the card was a 1600m maiden which provided Welcome Surprise (Exceed And Excel x New Style by Street Cry) the perfect opportunity to open his career tally, pulling well clear of 12 rivals under Sandro Paiva, riding for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and also supplying owner Karwan Barzani with a breakthrough success, on the eighth occasion his silks had been carried in a race. A 4-year-old gelded son of Exceed And Excel, bred by Godolphin, he raced for them on four occasions in Britain before switching to the UAE where he initially had two outings for Doug Watson. He has been kept busy since joining Al Rayhi, this was his sixth outing in 2021 having raced for the second and final time in Watson’s care in the middle of November.
On his third start for Al Rayhi when also partnered by Paiva he was only caught close home in a turf maiden over 1800m at Meydan before twice finishing fourth, in Abu Dhabi and over 1200m on the dirt surface at Meydan.
Paiva said: “He has done that very well and it is a reward for some consistent efforts in his last few runs. I was confident throughout and he picked up nicely when I asked him to win his race.”
Source: Emirates Racing Authority
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