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Rising Star of Purebred Arabian Ranks To Sparkle

Four-year-olds chase crown

HH SHEIKH HAMDAN BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM and his retained jockey, Paul Hanagan who combined to win the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan on Thursday with Handassa, are aiming at further big race Purebred Arabian glory with AF Mathmoon in the Group 1 Liwa Oasis (1400m), the highlight of Sunday’s meeting at Abu Dhabi.

The feature has attracted a field of ten with Hanagan’s mount, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi seeking to defend unbeaten records both over 1400 metres and on turf.

Now a five-year-old, he made a successful racecourse debut at that trip in an Abu Dhabi maiden late last campaign, before following up in a course and distance handicap. A winning return this season at Abu Dhabi, when stepped-up to 1600 metres, was his third and final start in the colours of his breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda.

Purchased privately by Sheikh Hamdan, he made his first appearance in blue on the Meydan dirt in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (1600m), suffering his only defeat to date when second to Thakif.

He has since opened his account on dirt, back over 1400 metres, in the Group 2 Bani Yas so arrives here unbeaten both on turf and over the distance.

“He has had very little racing and can hopefully keep improving,” said Hanagan. “This looks a good opportunity for him and we have to be very hopeful of a big run.”

When he won the Bani Yas, Hanagan’s mount beat Shateh, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mansour Al Nahyan and one of two in this race trained by Nacer Samiri.

Prior to that defeat at the hands of AF Mathmoon, he had won the Group 3 Al Ruwais, over the minimum trip of 1000m.

He beat stable companion, Sha’Red, who sports the colours of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on that occasion and both should be competitive again.

Pat Dobbs partners Sha’Red, winner of last year’s Liwa Oasis when ridden by Silvestre De Sousa, with Harry Bentley aboard Shateh.

Eric Lemartinel saddles two for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan with definite preference for Abhaar, the mount of Tadhg O’Shea.

Winner of all five career starts last season, including a maiden over this 1400 metres, it took him four outings to win this season, landing the 1600 metres Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup on his most recent start.

“He won with a bit in hand last time,” said O’Shea. “He would have found more if needed.
“He is a nice horse and probably not yet the finished article. This should be a good test for him as AF Mathmoon has looked very useful.”

The main support race is the Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown Round 3 (2400m) restricted to four-year-olds. Two weeks ago, in the Group 3 middle round over 200 metres shorter, the Lemartinel-trained Mahbooba made all under Richard Mullen for Sheikh Khalifa.

In a thrilling finish, she held on by a short-head from the wayward Sniper De Monlau, the pair separated by the width of the track after Sniper De Monlau drifted to the nearside rail.

Trained by Helal Al Alawi, he had done exactly the same when winning the 1600 metres opening round, on that occasion recovering to deny the Lemartinel-trained Cloe De Faust.

She was only fifth two weeks ago in the second round and is again the mount of Tadhg O’Shea.

Al Alawi also saddles Badira De Monlau, facile winner of an Al Ain maiden last time having finished third to Mahbooba and stablemate Sniper De Monlau two weeks ago. She too looks capable of taking a hand at the business end of the race.

The only Thoroughbred contest is a 1400 metres handicap with the maximum field of 14 set to face the starter. The weights are headed by Idler with Freddy Tylicki riding for trainer Ahmad bin Harmash at what appear the colt’s optimum conditions.

Three of his seven career victories have been achieved at the journey including one over this very course and distance in December of last year.

“He has faced two very stiff tasks since winning here in December,” said Tylicki. “We would have to hope, with luck in running, he will be thereabouts with conditions to suit.”

Another runner who seems to thrive at the distance on turf is Special Boy, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi and the mount of Fernando Jara. He has won twice under such conditions, in China in the April of both 2014 and 2015 and was beaten less than three lengths when sixth to Idler on his penultimate start.

However, arguably the most interesting runner is actually making his turf debut. A six-year-old, Cross Grain has won two of only five career starts and has clearly not been easy to keep sound.

Richard Mullen rides for trainer Satish Seemar over a trip he has won at twice and with a pedigree which offers plenty of hope turf will suit. Cross Grain is a half-brother to both South African Group One winner, Europa Point and the unbeaten Harbour Watch.

The latter, campaigned in England, won all three career starts, as a juvenile, culminating in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood before injury curtailed his career.