Mawahib Saves the Best for Last to Lift Cup for Al Asayl

The inaugural HE Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup was the official highlight at Saturday’s second meeting of the new season at Sharjah Equestrian & Racing Club and was won, narrowly, by Mawahib.

With Tadhg O’Shea riding, Mawahib, one of two in the field trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was held up in about fifth throughout the majority of the 1700m Prestige contest.

They made smooth progress on the home turn before easing to the front early in the straight, keeping on strongly and always holding the late challenge of Hamares with RB Burning Risk, who had led until passed by the winner, plugging on gamely in third.

Speaking later Tadhg O’Shea said “It was a race we at Al Asayl were keen to win as it is named after Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and we knew, coming here, we had two decent chances with Mahfouz also running well in fourth.

“I was a bit worried that we had a bad draw but hopeful she had the class to over come it and, happily, that proved to be the case.

“We had a lovely trip all the way round but she was getting a bit lonely in front and that is actually the first time I have ridden her in a race.

“She has always worked like a good filly and today she has shown she is one.”

Doug Watson was responsible for four of the runners in the only Thoroughbred contest, a 2000m handicap and it was his stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, who landed the spoils on Ballad Singer.

Always travelling strongly, Dobbs hugged the rail, saving ground where he could and when Watheeq, who had led from the outset, left a gap ‘on the aluminium’ in the straight, Ballad Singer shot through before quickening clear to win decisively.

Sporting the colours of Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, the four-year-old was deservedly losing his maiden tag on his ninth local start, having also ran once in both England and China.

Watson said: “Pat has given him a very good ride and they always looked to be travelling particularly well. We were slightly worried about him staying the trip under a big weight but he has seen it out nicely and I am delighted for the owner.

“He was a good third at Meydan last week and has good form there, as well as at Jebel Ali, so we now have plenty of options with him.”

The meeting opened with a 1200m handicap and Champion Jockey, Richard Mullen, was never far off the pace aboard AF Meeqat who led 300m from home and stayed on dourly to record a second career success.

Trained by Ernst Oertel for Champion Owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, his previous win was actually achieved on his final start last season in a 1000m maiden at Al Ain.

“I won on him at Al Ain last season and he has plenty of pace so we thought the 1200m here would suit him,” said Mullen.

“This was a stronger race than the maiden he won and he showed a good attitude here, as he did at Al Ain in March.

“He should remain competitive in these sprints and is, hopefully, improving with his racing.”

The following 1200m maiden was won by MH Rahal, initially first reserve but beneficiary of a late call to make just his second career start a successful one.

Third, over 1400m on the Abu Dhabi turf a fortnight ago, he was quickly away here and soon at the head of affairs under Ioannis Poullis.

At halfway, they had most of their 15 rivals beaten and, when Poullis galvanised his mount 300m from home, he quickened away to put the race to bed in a few strides.

It was a maiden UAE victory for Poullis and a first this season for trainer, Elise Jeanne who said: “Until yesterday we did not know this horse was even running and we were delighted when we found out.

“It was only his second run so this bodes well for his future as he won nicely and hopefully this is just the beginning for him.”

That victory was fairly straightforward but the following 1000m maiden produced a thrilling finish with Zena Al Maras and Malab, also trained by Jeanne, flashing across the line together.

However, it was not a double for Jeanne whose charge had hit the front under Tadhg O’Shea but was headed inside the final 300m by Zena Al Maras. The pair fought back closing to within a nose at the line with Bareez W’Rsan less than a length back in third.

It was a first winner of the season for both trainer Mahmood Hussain and apprentice jockey Adam McLean.

“She has shown a really good battling attitude to win that with the second fighting back close home,” said McLean. “She was a bit weak last season but the trainer assured me she had developed and strengthened which certainly proved to be the case.”

The finale was a 1700m maiden and Messrs Al Nabooda, Oertel and Mullen were denied a double when their Daana was beaten by debutante Rockmane, continuing the fantastic starts to the season of trainer Helal Al Alawi and jockey Pat Cosgrave.

Al Alawi was celebrating his seventh winner of the campaign, all ridden by Cosgrave who also has a victory for Godolphin to his name so is on eight.

The trainer said: “It has been a very good start to the season, with our Thoroughbreds as well as these Purebred Arabians.

“In Pat we have a top jockey who is riding with a lot of confidence. Hopefully this good run can continue.

“We were hopeful Rockmane would run well and she did not disappoint us.”