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Run A Mile At Al Ain

Three features close track’s season

THE AL AIN MILE (1600m) for Purebred Arabians headlines Saturday’s fixture when Al Ain Racecourse drops the curtain on its current season staging a seven race programme also featuring a Thoroughbred version sponsored by Etihad Airways and the final leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series (5100m).

Leading Purebred Arabian trainer Eric Lemartinel fresh from a double at the course on Thursday is launching a four-pronged attack on what will be the third edition of the Prestige conditions contest.

The Frenchman’s first choice riders are unavailable, Tadhg O’Shea has been claimed by his retaining stable and Gerald Avranche is on the injured list so Jose Santiago has received the call-up to partner RB Smokin Rich, second in the race last year.

The six-year-old is stepping down in class, three of four starts so far this year have been in Group One company, most recently when fourth in the Liwa Oasis (1400m) at Abu Dhabi.

Stable companion Najm Alemarat, returns to defend last season’s win on the back of a two-from-three record for the current campaign. The seven-year-old will be first up since early January when he won over 2000 metres at the track.

RB Rich Surprise and Madjanthat round out the quartet.

“All four are winners at Al Ain and the horses are in good form,” said Lemartinel. “It looks a good renewal but we have to be hopeful ours will be competitive.”

O’Shea will ride the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Bigg N Rich.

The nine-year-old, though not winning in six starts since capturing the 2015 Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round (1600m) at Meydan, has been running well in defeat and was a close fifth in Saudi Arabia on his most recent start.

“He should have a big chance,” said O’Shea. “He ran very well in Saudi Arabia last time and seems to remain in good form.”

Trainer Nacer Samiri has booked in-form Harry Bentley to ride Shateh, second in the Liwa Oasis a winner at the distance and placed at his only two previous dirt track outings in 12 career starts.

“The yard have had a great season and he looks to have a good chance,” said Bentley.

The Erwan Charpy-trained Sefri winner of the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile (1600m) in January heads the weights for the Thoroughbred version and looms as a leading chance again though jockey Paul Hanigan, who has the pick of Champion Owner HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s horses, has sided with Mutasayyid, narrowly beaten on grass at Meydan last time out.

The final race of the Al Ain campaign is the longest anywhere on a racecourse in the UAE, with runners having to travel two laps of the track plus 100 metres.

Burj Khalifa, last year’s winner is back and will again be ridden by Royston Ffrench.