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Owner And Jockey Target Three

Season’s curtain drops at SERC

THE RULER OF SHARJAH TROPHY (1700m), the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club’s headline race of the season highlights the track’s final meeting of the campaign on Saturday afternoon.

Owner HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the season’s leading jockey Tadhg O’Shea will be attempting to win the Prestige status conditions race, presented by Longines, in tandem for a third consecutive year.

They combine with the Eric Lemartinel- trained Hamza whose official rating of 77 marks him as the four-year-old his seven opponents have to beat.

The French-bred who arrived in the United Arab Emirates as a three-start non-winner, made a successful local debut in a 1400 metres Abu Dhabi maiden in November.

Five subsequent outings have produced one more win. He scored at his most recent appearance also at Abu Dhabi, in the Prestige Emirates Colts’ Classic (1600m) three weeks ago.

Hamza is making dirt debut and stretching to the longest distance he has attempted so far.

“He seems to handle the dirt in his work,” said O’Shea. “He is a young horse who is hopefully still improving and should be capable of a big run.”

Lemtrtinel will also saddle Men Alemarat, narrowly beaten in the inaugural Al Ain Derby (1800m) late last month following a dirt win over 2000 metres in maiden grade at the same course two starts earlier. Jockey Gerald Avranche maintains the ride.

Trainer’s Championship leader Doug Watson who has notched six Sharjah winners so far this campaign from only 18 runners will send out Hakim, to be ridden by his stable jockey Pat Hobbs, now within four wins of O’Shea on the rider’s table.

The five-year-old was a 1600 metres winner at Jebel Ali early in January and has since finished third at three following runs, twice over 1800 metres.

“This looks a good opportunity for him under conditions we think will really suit,” said Watson. “It is good prize money and he should be thereabouts.”

Ahmadani, second in the race 12 months ago is back for another crack as is fourth placed Meftah Al Reef.

Sheikh Khalifa, Lemartinel and O’Shea also link up in the final race on the card the Sharjah Marathon (2700m) again presented by Longines, with Rabdan.

The five-year-old won twice over 2000 metres at Al Ain last season and was placed over the same journey at Sharjah at his most recent run on 27 February but from a ratings mark of just 37 appears to have a hill to climb.

Watson holds a stronger hand with The Secret, to be ridden by Paul Hanagan.

The six-year-old has won three times at Sharjah this season once over 1700 metres and twice at 2000 metres.

“He goes well at Sharjah and has had a nice break,” said Watson. “He is in good form but, like most in the race, he has to prove his stamina for such a trip.”

Hanagan will ride Tajheez in the only Thoroughbred contest, the Longines Prima Luna Handicap (1200m). The four-times winner is one of a brace in the race prepared by Musabah Al Muhairi for Champion Owner-elect HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum with Dane O’Neill to partner Tagseed who has two course and distance wins on his record.

Hanagan’s mount has managed a single UAE victory, at Meydan on New Year’s Day, from 17 local starts and has yet to win over 1200 metres, though this will only be his second attempt at the trip.

Watson and Dobbs combine with Ubetterbegood, having just his fourth start for the trainer and second this season.

“He ran well enough after almost a year off on his return,” said Watson. “This looks the best opportunity he has had since joining us and, hopefully the flat, straight, track will suit him.”