HH The President Cup Prep Highlights Sunday Abu Dhabi Action

Another busy UAE weekend concludes on Sunday in the capital when the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club hosts a six race card featuring the HH The President Cup Prep, over the same 2200m course and distance as the Group One feature, scheduled to be run in three weeks. Worth AED2,500,000, the HH The President Cup has, in the past, been the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian race but no longer holds that mantle, held by the €1.2 million Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown, also at Abu Dhabi.

Twelve have been declared, including the first three home from the same race 12 months ago, headed by winner Mahbooba. Trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, she contested that Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown this season but, not surprisingly, found the 1600m trip on the short side as she did on her other start this season, when second in a conditions race six weeks ago. Slowly away in the HH The President Cup last February, she only managed to finish fifth but confirmed her undoubted class by winning the Group 1 Emirates Championship, over the same 2200m Abu Dhabi course and distance, in March.

Tadhg O’Shea, who intriguingly beat stable companion Mawahib last time over the inadequate 1600m, has opted to resume his partnership with the mare with Lemartinel also saddling Shaheer and Abu Alabyad, the mount of Gerald Avranche as he was when second to Mahbooba in this last year.

O’Shea said: “Sunday’s conditions are probably her optimum and, despite the fact she carries a penalty, she looks to have very strong claims. Looking at the field, I would say Loraa is probably the main danger given her proven course and distance form in illustrious company.”

Trained by Jean de Roualle for Sheikha Fatima bin Mansour Al Nahyan, Loraa, third in this prep 12 months ago, went on to win the HH The President Cup itself in February before seemingly not taking to the Meydan dirt when well beaten in the Kahayla Classic.

Like Mahbooba, carrying a penalty, the chances are she will need this comeback run, but under Champion Jockey Richard Mullen, she certainly cannot be safely ruled out given her undoubted class.

“She is a very good mare,” Mullen said. “She should run well but will certainly improve for the run with bigger targets down the line.”

De Roualle is also set to give a new recruit from France, Ziyadd, a first UAE assignment. Second on his penultimate appearance in Group Two company, having occupied the same berth in a pair of Group 3 events either side of that performance, he appears an interesting addition to the trainer’s team.

Chasing Loraa home in last year’s HH the President Cup was Sniper De Monlau, the horse who really announced the arrival in the training ranks of Helal Al Alawi. He made his one start this season in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown when badly hampered as the gates opened, basically forfeiting any chance he may have had. His talent is undoubted but he does have a habit of hanging violently, something jockey Pat Cosgrave will be hoping to avoid.

The only Thoroughbred race is a 1400m handicap which has attracted the maximum field allowed of 14. However Loraa fares, Mullen looks to hold leading claims again, this time with Taaj, one of three in the field for Satish Seemar. A dual course winner last year, including over this 1400m distance, he was fifth, again over this track and trip, on his one start this season and looks the one to beat.

Denzille Lane, trained by Doug Watson, appears a big danger and, given his positive style of racing, is ideally berthed in stall one under Pat Dobbs.