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RB Torch Wins Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Prep

The 1600m Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Prep race was the highlight of a six race card at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club’s first meeting of the season on Saturday evening.

The contest was dominated by horses trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the pair combined with the first three home.

Royston Ffrench was on the winner RB Torch, who stalked his stable companion, Hamza and Jesus Rosales until the top of the straight before committing for home.

They soon had the race in safe keeping with stablemates Darius Du Paon and Mawahib running on late to snatch second and third respectively.

“I am delighted with all three of them and it is a great result for the whole team,” said a beaming Lemartinel.

“We thought RB Torch was probably our best hope and he certainly did not let us down!”

Ffrench added: “He travelled round there like a dream just behind the leader and quickened up nicely when I asked him.

“You do not normally win races like this so easily but everything went very smoothly and I was always pretty confident.”

A field of 16 debutants faced the starter in the opener and for the vast majority of the 1400m maiden it appeared AF Sharesah would make all under Antonio Fresu.

However, she started to tire inside the final 300m and was swamped close home by Ras Esina, one of the other fillies in the race, under Jesus Rosales and initiating a double for Sheikh Khalifa and Lemartinel.

It was a good effort after a slow start from a poor draw to the delight of Lemartinel who said: “She won her trial recently so we were pretty hopeful today and knew she was fit. She had a bad draw and was slowly away but made steady progress before her class prevailed in the straight.

“Hopefully she can build on this because she is a nice filly.”
Fresu may have been denied in the opener but soon gained compensation in a second 1400m maiden just 30 minutes later.

Never far off the pace, after a slow start aboard Ainhoa Topchef, owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and making his local debut for Erwan Charpy after three promising runs in France.

They led before halfway and once they had skipped clear 300m from home, a win seemed the most likely result.

Charpy said: “He is a nice new horse in the yard who arrived with good form from France and was third behind a good filly on his last start in Europe.

“He was very immature last season so we were patient with him and he has grown up and strengthened over the summer.
“He could prove a good horse if he continues to progress as we hope he will.”

Champion Owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda opened his account for the campaign, combining with Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and Tadhg O’Shea to land a 2200m handicap with the in-form AF Mahshoum.

Soon in front, they were headed entering the straight and looked in trouble but rousted by O’Shea, AF Mashmoun fought back to lead close home.

O’Shea said: “The yard have the horses in great form and this horse won his two most recent starts at the end of last season, both at Al Ain.

“He has matured but is one of those horses who will never win by a long way and he really battled when he had to tonight.”

The owner completed a double, courtesy of AF Ashras, partnered by Champion Jockey, Richard Mullen, for trainer Ernst Oertel in a 1600m handicap.

Settled just in behind the early leaders, Mullen eased his mount closer on the home turn and they finished well down the centre of the track, pouncing on AF Saquel well inside the final 100m.

“We had three runners in the race and were pretty confident one of them would win so, luckily, it worked out well,” said Oertel.

“AF Ashras is a very solid and consistent horse in this grade who normally runs a good race. It is nice to see him win again and to get our first winner of the season on the board.”

The only Thoroughbred contest was the concluding 2200m handicap and it produced arguably the best finish of the night with Gavroche flying home from virtually last under Fernando Jara but failing to catch Tides Rise by a short-head.

Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, Tides Rise was winning for a fifth time but this was a first on turf at the seventh attempt.

It also provided a dream start for jockey Connor Beasley, making his local debut on the evening and opening his account on his third ride.

Beasley said: “That is a great start and I am obviously very grateful to Ahmad bin Harmash and his team for the opportunity.

“This horse has some very consistent form and has shown a really good attitude to win this.”