Abu Dhabi Season Opener on Saturday Features Prep Race

Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club (ADEC) stage a rare Saturday meeting in the capital to begin their season, highlighted by the 1600m Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Prep, a conditions race for which the maximum field of 16 have been declared.

It may not carry a lofty official status, but it looks a very strong heat and certain to provide clues for many of the big Abu Dhabi turf races throughout the season.

Al Zahir is one to watch out for in this contest. The four year old is trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and was an exciting prospect in his two UAE outings earlier this year, landing the final two rounds of the Arabian Triple Crown in Abu Dhabi.

Those wins were over 2200m and 2400m, which is further than Saturday’s race but he is a young horse and clearly held in high regard.

Al Rayhi’s stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, takes the ride and said: “I would not swap him, and think he is a very talented horse. He has been working nicely but will definitely improve fitness wise.

“The 1600m is very much his minimum trip but he will be staying on and this looks a good spot to get him back on the track.
“The HH President’s Cup is hopefully his main target.”

Al Rayhi also saddles Aljazi, the mount of Paolo Sirigu for Sheikh Hamdan, who also has two other runners, both trained by Doug Watson.

Of the pair, stable jockey, Pat Dobbs partners Bon Baiser De Baust with Sam Hitchcott aboard stable companion, Sauternes Al Maury.

“Bon Baiser De Baust ran very well at Abu Dhabi in the President’s Cup when he probably did not stay the 2200m,” explained Watson. “He is in good form as is Sauternes Al Maury who is actually making his turf debut so will see how he goes.”

Eric Lemartinel saddles three for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Gerald Avranche.The top contender is four year old Darius Da Paon who was second to Al Zahir in the aforementioned two legs of the Arabian Triple Crown.

Jean de Roualle and Richard Mullen combine with Nahee for Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan who will be having his first start for the Frenchman, with his last outing in early December last year.

Yet to shine in five previous UAE outings, he looks one to keep an eye on for his new trainer this season.

International interest is added by top US performer Paddy’s Day who will be having his fourth UAE outing, while preparing for next Friday’s €1.2million Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown. This is the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian contest, over the same course and distance.

Fifth in this prep race last year, Scott Powell’s stable star has struggled to emulate his US form, where tracks are left-handed (Abu Dhabi is right-handed) and he races on dirt.
As always, there is only one Thoroughbred contest and the maximum 14 allowed will face the starter in a handicap over 2200m.

O’Shea and Al Rayhi again team up, this time with Cross Step who will be making his local debut. “He is a nice new horse in the yard and has settled in nicely,” said O’Shea. “He stays well and the trip looks about right but we will find out more about him on Saturday.

Dobbs rides State Law for Watson who said: “We have been happy with his preparation and are keen to try him over this longer trip; hopefully it will suit him.”

Prince Of Suhail, one of two in the race for Satish Seemar and the mount of Champion Jockey, Mullen, heads the weights on his first outing for the yard, having won twice locally when trained by Erwan Charpy.

“We have been pleased with him since he joined us and he seems in good form so hopefully he will run a big race.” said Mullen.
Seemar also saddles Thistle Bloodstock’s Unite The Clans, the mount of apprentice Sean Davis.