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Grande day in Abu Dhabi for Al Raihe

Champion Trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe continued his amazing start to the season by saddling a double in two prep races for forthcoming feature events, at Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening.

Pride of place went to Il Grande Maurizio, winning for the third time already this season in the 1400m prep for the Listed HH The President`s Cup in a fortnight.

Having won the 1600m Listed National Day Cup only last Sunday, the horse is in the form of his life and won comfortably under a confident Ffrench who said: "The horse has been a real star and came out of last week`s race in great form. He has not done much at home this week and we were confident of another big run from him and everything went to plan in the race. He should be back in a fortnight to try and complete a memorable Listed double."

Stable companion Mestor had earlier made short thrift of his rivals in the prep race for the three-year-old Abu Dhabi Championship, making virtually under Ffrench who said: "We knew we had an exceptional chance so were quite happy to be out in front as we were when he won here last time. The Abu Dhabi Championship is the logical next step and he is a nice young horse to have in the yard."

Tony Manuel continued his great run if form with Yazan winning the opening 1600m maiden under Richard Mullen who said: "I had a bit of luck as my intended mount was a non-runner and Tony kindly put me on this one. Tony`s horses are in great form and this one will improve as he was still looking around and will have learned from that."

Jaber Bittar is another trainer whose horses are running well and his Najem Al Khalij, a winner on the All-Weather at Meydan nine days previously, made it two for the campaign in the 1600m handicap.

Tadhg O`Shea was on board for both wins and the jockey said: "He was giving a lot of weight to some of these but showed a nice turn of foot and did it nicely. Hopefully there is more to come from him."

O`Shea completed a double when landing the penultimate race, a 2200m handicap, on Versac PY, another following up a win on his previous start.

Trained by Erwan Charpy, he had won at Sharjah last week and O`Shea said: "We took a bit of a chance heading here so quickly after last week but he is a tough and versatile horse so we were hopeful he would be ok."

A 1000m Abu Dhabi handicap winner in February, the Eric Lemartinel-trained AF Maqam Alezz appreciated the return to the minimum trip when defying top-weight in a competitive handicap.

There was little between the first four at the line but Gerald Avranche had driven his mount ahead 200m out and the pair were able to hold on to that advantage.

Avranche said: "He has plenty of speed and I was able to track the pace from my low draw which helped him."