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Al Ain Offers Sprinters The Spotlight

Famous Irish track backs Thoroughbreds

AL AIN RACECOURSE is set to offer a competitive seven race programme when action returns to the dirt circuit on Friday following a two week break.

The meeting is highlighted by a 1000 metres Purebred Arabian handicap, the most valuable and final race on what appears a very tricky card for players of the on-course competitions.

Fourteen have been declared, but only a handful can be seriously fancied with the majority of the runners carrying more weight than their official handicap mark would normally allocate.

Therefore, it looks wise to concentrate on the top five on the racecard, headed by the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained pair of Love To Dance and Aim Hi.

Stable jockey, Fernando Jara, rides the former with the yard’s apprentice, George Buckell, aboard the stable companion. Both jockeys are enjoying good seasons with Jara, on 13 winners, just two ahead of Buckell.

Love To Dance, who will be having her eighth start locally, has yet to win in the UAE but will surely appreciate the return to dirt having only raced on turf since leaving her native USA.

With four dirt victories to her name and not devoid of pace, her first try at the 1000m minimum trip could see her open her local account.

Aim Hi, also yet to win in the UAE, will be having his sixth start locally. Third (of five) in last year’s Final Leg of the Al Ain Sprint Series, over the same course and distance, he has at least shown he can act under these conditions and with Buckell’s 2.5kilogrammes claim arguably looks the one to beat.

“We think they should both run well,” said Al Muhairi. “Both have plenty of pace and their best form is on dirt so, hopefully, at the weights they have a lot in their favour.”

It comes as no surprise that leading Purebred Arabian trainer Eric Lemartinel provides the main dangers, saddling no less than five.

RB Inferno and Eswarah, the mounts of Gerald Avranche and Tadhg O’Shea respectively, appear to hold the strongest credentials of the quintet with preference, at the weights, for the former.

Trainer Nacer Samiri has booked Omani-apprentice Saif Al Balushi for Da`Areen in the feature. She was just behind RB Inferno last time and there should be little between the pair again.

Al Balushi, with ten career wins so far, has picked up four rides for his first outing on an UAE racecorse.

The Curragh Racecourse, Ireland’s home to all five of their Classics has recently linked with the Al Ain track and sponsor the only Thoroughbred contest, a 1400m handicap.

A maximum field of 12 has been declared to face the starter with Al Muhairi again well represented.

The Dubai handler supplies three of the runners with Jara aboard Matador De Toros, caught close home by Lanadam over 1600m at the previous meeting.

The trainer’s other two runners will both carry the colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and be ridden by the leading owners retained jockeys, with Paul Hanagan choosing to ride Tajheez and Dane O’Neill aboard Hattaash.

Tajheez, a 1400 metres handicap winner on the Meydan dirt on New Year’s Day, could be the one to beat but he does have ground to make up on Sullivan Street from his latest start, a third over the same course and distance.

The Ismail Mohammed-trained Sullivan Street who was second on that occasion, having been well beaten by Tajheez previously has the benefit of Buckell’s apprentice claim this time.