Make It A Double At Al Ain

Hannoof wins Round 1 of the Al Ain Marathon Series
Photo: Erika Rasmussen (

Hayes and Buckell celebrate years` close

English apprentice George Buckell and Irishman Chris Hayes made the most of Saturday evening`s meeting at Al Ain Racecourse when both rode a winning double at the final UAE racing fixture of 2015.

Buckell cemented his brace landing the featured opening leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series for Purebred Arabians (2600m) aboard the Nacer Samiri- trained Haanoof who appreciated every yard of the staying test.

The five-year-old mare was last in the very early stages before improving to stalk the pace at half way then briefly taking up the running about 1000m from home.

She was soon swamped by several rivals and seemingly beaten, but plugged on relentlessly in the straight to regain the initiative in the last stride and deny Sheikh Down, who had looked the winner everywhere in the final 100 metres bar the winning post.

“She has really stayed well,” said Buckell. “We were probably outpaced at one stage but she has just galloped and galloped, relishing the trip.
“It was a brave, gutsy effort and you would imagine she will stay further.”

The young jockey opened his account by steering Modern History to an all-the-way win in the Al Jimi Handicap (1600m), the night`s Thoroughbred race.

For Buckell who also rode a double at Abu Dhabi last Sunday, it was the first Thoroughbred winner of the season.

Modern History is trained in Dubai by Musabah Al Muhairi to whom the apprentice is attached for his first stint in the UAE.

“This horse was rated a lot higher when with Charlie Appleby and Godolphin so the ability has clearly always been there but it has probably taken a while to work out the tactics with him,” Buckell explained.

“I rode him positively last time, which he seemed to enjoy before tiring, so we went from the front again and he has won nicely.”

Owner-breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda`s good season continued when Hayes scored with AF Afaal in the Al Sarooj Maiden (1600m).

It was a seventh career start and third on dirt for the Ahmad Al Meharbi-trained five-year-old who was returning to action after a 300 days break. He won well though and may progress past maiden grade.

Thirty minutes later Hayes was back in the winner’s enclosure having partnered Ubu Al Mels, trained on the course by Mohd Ramadan, to victory in the Al Maqam Handicap (1000m).

After settling just behind a frantic early gallop, Hayes drove his mount to the front inside the final 200m to post a relatively easy victory in a race that had appeared competitive on paper.

“I thought we had a big chance, especially given his course form,” said Hayes. “He was well away and ran on really strongly when I asked him.
“Obviously it is great to ride a double and AF Afaal won his race well. I was told to be positive on him and, luckily, that worked out well.”

Rain was threatening when the meeting opened with the Wathba Stud Farm Cup (2000m) where the Helal Al Alawi-trained Chase Me lived up to his name from the top of the straight.

Ridden by apprentice Hector Crouch, Chase Me tracked the early pace, set by Kokomo, throughout the first half of the race before passing that rival about 900m from home.

They set sail for home turning-in and never looked in danger, although eventual runner-up, Major, briefly posed a threat then appeared less than resolute 300m from the post, before relenting to run on close home.

“The trainer was pretty hopeful,” explained Crouch. “He said if the horse travels well he will win and he was always happy and with racing room. The track is pretty deep, so it was quite hard work, but everything worked out perfectly for him.”

The rain, accompanied by strong winds greeted Banan Al Reef`s win in the third race, The Al Masoudi Maiden (2000m). It was the 15th career start for the six-year old, who was partnered by jockey Fernando Jara, and the eighth win of the season for trainer Abdallah Al Hammadi who has his string in flying form.

“He was very good today,” said Jara. “He broke well and then always travelled kindly.”

The Al Khobasi (1800m) conditions race went the way of RB Rich Surprise, one of three in the contest trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The four-year-old was settled in the rear early on by jockey Tadhg O’Shea then made smooth progress on the final bend before being asked for a serious effort.

While perhaps not quickening spectacularly, he certainly galloped relentlessly down the straight, leading in the last 150m to win going away.

“He never really travels early on,” said O’Shea. “But he does love this surface and they went quick enough up front which played to his strength as he just stays so well.
“He will certainly appreciate longer trips in time and could be a nice stayer n the making.”