HE Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup Highlights Sharjah Saturday Meeting

The Thoroughbreds take centre stage at Sharjah on Saturday with the inaugural running of the HE Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, a 1700m handicap in which the maximum field of 16 will face the starter.

Champion Trainer Doug Watson, has his team at Red Stables in flying form and is responsible for four of the 16. Stable jockey Sam Hitchcott elects to partner Say No More who won on debut at Jebel Ali almost exactly a year ago, but has been out of luck in his six subsequent starts. Three of those outings have been this season, the best of which was the most recent when chasing home stable companion, Moosir, in a 1400m handicap at Meydan two weeks ago.

“That was a good run behind Moosir,” said Watson. “Say No More is nicely drawn on Saturday in what will be his first visit to Sharjah which we think will suit him.”

Watson’s remaining three runners also appear to hold sound claims in a wide open race. Mathematics, badly drawn in 14, is to be ridden by Paolo Sirigu and won on his only previous trip to Sharjah in a 1700m maiden last October. That course and distance success was his first of three victories last season but he has finished well beaten on both starts during this campaign, most recently behind the aforementioned Moosir, in a different race to the one Say No More contested.

Apprentices Sean Davis and Josh Quinn ride Watson’s Centrifugal and Sheeba respectively and the trainer continued: “The draw was not kind to Mathematics but the return to Sharjah should be in his favour. Centrifugal probably needed his only run this season and is well drawn in one. Sheeba has been off since March but seems in good form so hopefully we have four decent chances.”

Gopi Selvaratnam trains at Jebel Ali Racecourse, predominantly for the track’s patron, Sheikh Ahmed, after whom this race is named so it would be a contest he would like to win and relies on Ocean Telegraph. Owned by Khalifa Dasmal, Ocean Telegraph has had just one run thus far during the current campaign so should be cherry ripe for this assignment and his best UAE form, at Meydan, would advertise his strong claims in this.

Selvaratnam said: “He would have needed his one run this season and Saturday’s race looks a good one for him. We would be hoping for a good run in a competitive race.”

Like Watson, Helal Al Alawi has made a flying start to the season and relies on Long Water, third in both his previous outings this season. A 1400m Meydan winner last November, he also contested the Listed The Dubai Creek Mile on this weekend 12 months ago. The HE Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup looks his most straightforward opportunity since victory over a year ago.

The other five races are all for the Purebred Arabians, the best of which is a 2000m handicap. Al Alawi saddles three with Pat Cosgrave electing to partner Yalap Al Naif. That in itself looks significant given the tremendous partnership trainer and jockey have forged this season.

The same can be said for trainer Ernst Oertel and reigning Champion Owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, who also have three chances in the race. The booking of Antonio Fresu for AF Kafu suggests he is their main hope.

Similarly, Eric Lemartinel saddles three for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Tadhg O’Shea has opted for RB Burning Ash. The jockey said: “It was not a straightforward choice but I hope I picked the right one in a competitive race. Again, Eric’s team at Al Asayl look to have a strong hand and hopefully can land the prize.”