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Local Star Ifraaj Leads the Charge in Al Ain Feature

The second running of the 1800m Al Ain Derby is the highlight at Al Ain Racecourse on Friday afternoon with Ifraaj, owned by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, undoubtedly looking the one to beat.

Twelve have been declared for the Prestige contest but Ifraaj, trained by Eric Lemartinel and the mount of Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, is actually the only previous winner among the dozen.

He has two Al Ain victories to his credit, both over 2000m, but the 200m shorter trip appears unlikely to stop him unless one of the remaining 11 show a marked improvement.

“The Al Ain track really suits him so conditions are not an issue,” said a confident sounding O’Shea. “He has been working well, seems in great form and, hopefully, is the one they all have to beat.”

Ernst Oertel and Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda are enjoying a great season and combine with AF Abahe, to be ridden by Richard Mullen, but he was beaten a long way on his sole start. That was over 1400m, at Abu Dhabi on turf. The change of surface and extra distance will need to have a major affect to see him trouble Ifraaj.

Gafel and Shahrazad De Rodaim, both trained by Helal Al Alawi, both finishing second in their most recent outings, appear to be the top competitors for the title.

The main support race is a conditions event over 1600m and the maximum field of 15 will face the starter, including Deyaar, the choice of O’Shea from four in the race for Sheikh Khalifa and Lemartinel.

However, this certainly looks more competitive than the feature and Mohd Ramadan, who trains on the track, looks to have a live chance with Babel D’Aillas under Pat Cosgrave. A 2000m course maiden winner in December, he has been highly tried since and should relish this drop in class.

Bachair Qardabiyah is another contender, who will make just her second local start. She is saddled by Elise Jeanne who has enjoyed a very good season so far.

The six year old mare has won twice in Europe but has faced plenty of stiff tasks in her other outings, including on her UAE debut when a distant fifth in the Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah at Meydan.

That was just her second attempt on dirt and her first was also in Group company, in Sweden, last year, so this looks a lot easier and she can go well under Bruno Reis.

Storm Troupour, to be partnered by Antonio Fresu for Beverley Deutrom, could be best of the rest.

The only Thoroughbred contest is a 1600m handicap and a full field of 15 will go to post, including the Satish Seemar-trained Ru’Oud, a winner over this trip at Jebel Ali three weeks ago.

In a weak race, he looks the one to beat under Mullen and it could be his stable companions, Jununee and Website who offer the best resistance.

The mount of Marc Monaghan, Jununee was second in a 2000m course maiden a fortnight ago and the drop in trip should suit.

Meanwhile, Dane O’Neill partners Website, a close third at Meydan in a 1600m maiden four weeks ago and seemingly improving steadily.