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Al Ain`s Marathon Sets A Task

Stayers tested in first of series

Al Ain Racecourse’s Marathon Series for Purebred Arabian stayers opens on Saturday with the first round, a 2600m handicap highlighting a seven race card.

Fifteen have been declared but it may not be as competitive as the numbers would suggest.

The weights are headed by Haanoof, one of four in the race trained at Abu Dhabi`s Al Wathba complex by Nacer Samiri for HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The five-year-old mare won three times last season, all on the Abu Dhabi turf.

She has yet to show the same level of form on dirt but this will be only her third start on the surface and rates as an easier assignment than both previous attempts in Group One company.

In form apprentice George Buckell fresh from an Abu Dhabi double on Sunday has been booked to utilise his 2.5 kilogramme claim

“She has run well on both previous starts this season,” said Buckell. “Obviously the trip is a query but she has won over 2200m and seems to stay very well.”

Al Asayl-based trainer Eric Lemartinel will saddle three runners for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Madjanthat, to be ridden by the trainer`s French compatriot Gerald Avranche, would appear to hold the strongest claims of the trio.

Three times a winner at Al Ain, twice on dirt, once on the previous all-weather surface, he is clearly talented but has also shown signs of temperament in the past – including unseating rider Tadhg O’Shea as the stalls opened on his third career start in March of last year.

Madjanthat, partnered by O’Shea, won on the course, over 1800m, two weeks ago and was staying on strongly suggesting the extra trip may well suit him.

“He is a nice horse,” said Avranche. “He has not had that much racing and we hope he will stay well.”

O’Shea, stable jockey for trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe at Dubai`s Grandstand Stables, is riding Takaamul, one of three in the race owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Paul Hanagan, Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey, has elected to ride Zaffaan, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi. All three of the seven-year-old`s career wins have been achieved on dirt, including last season’s 2700m Sharjah Marathon so stamina is certainly not an issue here.

Al Muhairi, who prepares his team at Oasis Stables in the Meydan precinctsof Dubai, is strongly represented in the only Thoroughbred race, a 1600m handicap, with Enery and Modern History boasting strong credentials at the head of the weights and stable-mate Damar lower down the scale.

Modern History, to be ridden by stable jockey Fernando Jara, takes a big drop in class having most recently contested the National Day Cup Prep on the Abu Dhabi turf. He has shown glimpses of form on dirt and is beginning to look well handicapped.

Enery, another ride for Buckell, has finished second in two of his three most recent starts and deserves a change of luck, while Jesus Rosales takes the ride on Damar.

The Doug Watson-trained Mukhabarat and Lanadam, prepared by Dhruba Selvaratnam, have both posted impressive victories this season – at Sharjah and Jebel Ali respectively.

Both were disappointing on their most recent outings though and Mutual Force, representing the Al Raihe and O’Shea combination, could be a bigger danger.

It will be the seven-time winner`s first start on dirt since February and he looks reasonably treated under conditions which suit him.