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Champion Jockey O`Shea & El Salaam Head Opening Night Contenders at Al Ain Racecourse

Al Ain Racecourse is all set to host its first race meeting of the season on Friday.

The highlight of a seven race card is a handicap over 1600m, worth AED100,000 for which 13 have been declared.

UAE Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, has found Al Ain a happy hunting ground and rides El Salaam, trained by his main employer, Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.

He will be sporting the colours of Champion Owner, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“I won a similar handicap, over course and distance, on him in February,” said O’Shea. “So clearly conditions suit and he has already had a run this season so should hopefully be spot on condition wise.

“It is a competitive race but my fellow has been working well and we are hoping for a big run.”

However, Al Rayhi’s charge appears to face stiff competition, in particular from Al Asayl-based trainer, Eric Lemartinel who saddles a trio for his main patron, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Jockey bookings would perhaps suggest four year old Meydan Du Paon, the mount of Gerald Avranche, is their main hope.

His sole career victory, after just six career starts, was registered over this course and distance at the end of January when O’Shea was in the saddle.

That win came on the 4 year old colt’s sole dirt outing, giving him an added edge, and so it would be easy to ignore his run at Abu Dhabi two weeks ago when he lost any chance with a very sluggish start.

“I rode him twice last season and he ran well both times in good races,” said Avranche. “He is proven under today’s conditions so we are expecting another good performance.”

His stable companions, Molahen El Alhan and Hamza should not be ruled out. The latter having won his sole previous dirt outing at Sharjah’s biggest race of the season, the Ruler Of Sharjah Trophy, in March this year.

Hamza will be ridden by Jesus Rosales, while apprentice Kamil Grzybowski partners Molahen El Alhan, winner of the aforementioned Ruler Of Sharjah Trophy back in 2014.

Like stablemate Meydan Du Paon, both Hamza and Molahen El Alhan have the benefit of a run, on the Abu Dhabi turf, already this season.

Champion Trainer, Doug Watson, may not be represented in the feature but does saddle two for Sheikh Hamdan in an earlier 1600m handicap.

The Secret, to be ridden by Pat Dobbs, is arguably better at Sharjah but stable companion, Sauternes Al Maury, looks a fascinating contender.

The choice of Dane O’Neill, from three runners owned by Sheikh Hamdan, he has only had two starts, winning on debut, over 1400m at Al Ain.

The four year old bay colt then flopped, in an 1800m course handicap but remains a horse of great potential.

“The Secret is in great form at home,” said Watson. “He has run well at Al Ain but does seem to save his best for Sharjah.“Sauternes Al Maury we hope can develop into a nice horse but, like The Secret, he does have a bad draw. This will be a good chance to gauge how good he might be.”

Sheikh Khalifa and Lemartinel again combine with major hopes, on this occasion. Men Alemarat, the mount of O’Shea is under the spotlight, after already having bagged a win in Sharjah this season.

Also in contention is Avranche’s mount, RB Inferno.

“I won a 2000m Al Ain maiden on Men Alemarat last season so conditions are fine,” said O’Shea. “He was very tough winning at Sharjah where he had to really battle to land the spoils. Hopefully he is the one to beat.”