Mustahdaf Hopes To Go One Better in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club host the third and final meeting of the UAE racing weekend on Saturday with a six race card, highlighted by a 2200m handicap, the fixture’s only Thoroughbred race.

It has attracted the maximum field allowed of 14, including Mustahdaf, second in the same race last year and one of four in this year’s renewal owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the choice of his retained jockey, Dane O’Neill.

Trained by Maria Ritchie, he has yet to win in the UAE after 10 attempts but does have three Abu Dhabi runners-up finishes on his CV, including in this on his seasonal bow last year so the fact he has not run for 432 days is not a great worry and he is well drawn in three.

Ritchie said: “We know the conditions suit him and he seems in good form. The draw has been kind to him and, we think, he should run well in a competitive race.”

Erwan Charpy saddles two of the other Sheikh Hamdan runners with stable jockey, Antonio Fresu aboard Munshid and Gerald Avranche riding Nafaqa, while the trainer also has a third contender in Spiritous, to be ridden by Paolo Sirigu.

The fourth Sheikh Hamdan runner, Ostaad, is trained by Doug Watson who also is responsible for three runners, the other pair being Empoli, along with Tried And True.

Pat Cosgrave, leading the way early on in the jockeys’ championship, rides Ostaad with Sam Hitchcott aboard Tried And True. However, Empoli, who will be making his debut for the yard, is the choice of stable jockey, Pat Dobbs and looks to hold serious claims.

Previously trained in Germany by Peter Schiergen, he has only won twice but the second of those victories was in the 2014 Group 1 Preis Von Europa in Cologne. Other career highlights include a close fourth in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, also in 2014.

He has not run since October 2016 but according to Doug Watson, has an undoubted touch of class.

“Empoli is a nice new horse in the yard who we actually received last season but ran out of time to get him a run at the Carnival.

“We are very pleased with him and hoping for a big run but he will surely improve from the outing.

“We were keen to try Tried And True at Abu Dhabi for the first time and he ran well on both his turf starts for us at Meydan.

“He was third on the most recent, behind Ostaad who is also running at Abu Dhabi for the first time.”

Zambucca was a Group Two winner in his native South Africa just over five years ago but has not won since. Trained by Satish Seemar, he ran well on his seasonal return, here at Abu Dhabi over 1600m, three weeks ago and should be competitive under Richard Mullen.

In a wide open contest, Skygazer is another to consider with Tadhg O’Shea riding for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. This is his third start of the season but first on turf since winning in China as recently as April.

“I was disappointed with him last time,” admitted O’Shea. “We are hoping back on turf he can bounce back to his best.”

However Skygazer fares, the former Champion Jockey appears to have serious claims aboard Molahen El Alhan in a 1600m handicap, the best of the Purebred Arabian action.

One of two in the race trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he has eight victories to his name, all bar one when ridden by O’Shea. Gerald Avranche rides stablemate Deyaar.

“It is hard not to ride a horse when you have won seven on him,” said O’Shea. “This will be his third run of the season and he should be spot on.

“Deyaar is a useful mare and should be thereabouts in an open race.”

Da’Areen, trained by Saifaldin Deeb and the mount of Richard Mullen, along with Antonio Fresu aboard AF Al Jahed for Ernst Oertel, could be the main dangers.