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Group One Glory For Grey

Sniper on target at Abu Dhabi

HH SHEIKH HAMDAN BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM and his retained jocket Paul Hanagan fresh from capturing the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan on Thursday with Handassa, snared the other big Purebred Arabian contest of the weekend, the Group 1 Liwa Oasis (1400m), at Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The victory of AF Mathmoon completed a great few days for them and trainer Musabah Al Muhairi, fresh from his Super Saturday treble at Meydan.
That trio was headlined by Special Fighter in the Thoroughbred version of Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, but also included Muarrab and Fityaan, winners of the two sprints for Sheikh Hamdan and Hanagan.

Ten may have gone to post in the Liwa Oasis but only three were ever really involved with Shateh leading, from AF Mathmoon and Hanagan who were stalked by Tadhg O’Shea on Abhaar.

Abhaar was in trouble early in the straight when Harry Bentley riding Shateh injected a burst of pace into the race, Hanagan’s mount though was starting to thrown down his decisive challenge.

The five-year-old grey hit the front about 200 metres from home and was never going to be caught. He was registering his fifth win from just six starts and protecting unbeaten records, both on turf and over 1400m.

His first three career wins were achieved in the colours of his breeder, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda.

“He is a really nice horse and stuck his head down to fight,” said Hanagan. “Once we hit the straight I was always pretty happy we had things under control.
“And he certainly was not stopping at the line as I struggled to pull him up.
“It has been a brilliant weekend in what has been a great season.”

Al Muhairi completed a double when stable jockey Fernando Jara made all on the mare Love To Dance in the concluding 1200 metres handicap.

The main support race, the Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown Round 3 (2400m) restricted to four-year-olds, produced a remarkable finish, as had the second round over 200 metres shorter a fortnight ago.

Sniper De Monlau’s fascination with the nearside rail in the Abu Dhabi straight was evident again and despite Royston Ffrench initially trying his utmost the Helal Al Alawi trainee was determined to drift right across the track, as he has now done on all four career starts.

In the 1600 metres opening round of the Triple Crown he overcame his errant path to win but two weeks ago, in the middle round, it cost him the race when he failed, by a short-head, to catch Mahbooba.

Again, in a virtual carbon copy, it was Mahbooba , when he finally found his favourite rail and ran in a straight line he was challenging in the final 100m, this time nailing her on the line.

“This horse has so much ability,” said Ffrench. “He really is very good but, for some reason, when he gets into the home straight he just wants to go left.
“There is no point fighting him as you will forfeit ground trying to straighten him and then, once on the rail, he runs on and tries his best.”

Khalid Khalia Al Nabooda may have sold AF Mathmoon to Sheikh Hamdan but is still enjoying an amazing season as an owner with horses he has bred himself, mostly by his own sire, AF Al Buraq.

The list includes AF Maqayes, trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe, victorious, for the fifth time this season in a 1000 metres handicap under O’Shea.
It was the owner’s 21st success of the campaign.

The four-year-old has now won all three times he has tackled the minimum trip, adding this victory to success at Sharjah and Al Ain.

“He is a grand little horse,” said O’Shea. “He should improve as he has only had eight starts. I think he will now go for the Ruler Of Sharjah Trophy, their biggest race, next weekend.”

Frenchman Jean de Roualle, In his first season training from a base in Al Ain, opened his local account with the smooth victory of Dhamin in a 1600 metres conditions race.

Ridden by Richard Mullen, Dhamin was losing his maiden tag on his seventh career start and his first locally. His final start when trained in France, was in Group Two company so he is clearly held in high regard.

Sporting the colours of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he was slowly into his stride as the gates opened but soon in a good position in midfield.

After making smooth progress on the home turn, Dhamin looked a bit short of room, briefly, but once in the clear soon led to win comfortably.

“He is a nice horse from France,” said Mullen. “The trainer was very concerned about him staying 1600 metres so I was as patient as I could be.
“I am very pleased to ride Jean his first UAE winner as he is a very good trainer as he has shown in France over many years.”

Mullen, the reigning Champion Jockey completed a double riding for his main employer, Satish Seemar on Cross Grain, winner of the only Thoroughbred contest, a 1400 metres handicap.

A large blanket would have covered seven or eight of the runners in the shadows of the Winning Post but it was Cross Grain, making a belated turf debut at the of six, who crossed the line in front.

“He is a really nice, big horse,” said Mullen. “We have been trying to get him in a turf race so we were delighted when this one appeared for him.
“The boss has kept him fresh for this as we knew turf would really suit him and he has not run since early December.
“Hopefully we can get more turf opportunities for him.”

He was chased home by stable companion, Lehbab a neck behind and himself a head in front of Idler.

It looks somewhat improbable at halfway, when, after a tardy start, he had more of his 15 rivals in front of him than behind, but the Saifaldin Deeb-trained Ramadi Al Rawasi was able to open his account, at the fifth attempt, in the opening 1400 metres maiden.

Unraced before November, he was placed on his previous two outings, on dirt at Al Ain and this was only his second turf start.

Pat Dobbs, who does not ride many Purebred Arabians, was on board for what was, ultimately, a comfortable victory.

“The season has been going really well with the Doug Watson horses in great form,” said Dobbs. “This 1400 metres trip has suited this horse and he did it nicely.”