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Sheikh Hamdan Holds Strong Hand In National Day Cup Preparation Race

Former Kahayla Classic winner, Fryvolous Goes To Post In Purebred Arabian Feature

It is the National Day Cup prep races at Abu Dhabi on Sunday with quality fields assembled for both the Purebred Arabian and Thoroughbred 1,600m races.

Marching Time won the Thoroughbred version last year and is back to defend his title but Dane O`Neill, retained rider for the owner HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, elects to ride Derbaas for Champion Trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

The owner is actually responsible for five of the 11 runners declared with Watson also saddling Finjaan, while Musabah Al Muhairi and Erwan Charpy rely on Mutheeb and Yaseer respectively in the famous blue and white silks.

Al Raihe said: “Derbaas is pleasing us at home and we expect a big run but it will be the first time he has raced right-handed for us which is a slight concern.”

Of his pair Watson said: “Marching Time deserved that win last year because he had been unlucky in defeat a few times but this looks a stronger renewal and Finjaan is probably our main hope.”

It looks a wide open contest and Dhruba Selvaratnam, who opened his account for the season at Jebel Ali on Friday, saddles Toolain and said: “It will be his first run for us on turf after three runs last season so that is a hopefully in his favour but I think he will probably need the run.”

Ernst Oertel saddled Time Out to defeat stable companion Fryvolous in the Purebred Arabian version last year and the Al Asayl trainer relies on the latter this year with Champion Jockey Tadhg O`Shea in the saddle. The jockey said: “He has been working well and Ernst is very pleased with him. There are some quality performers in the race but he is certainly one of them and I am looking forward to riding him in a race as he has impressed me at home in the mornings.”

Trainer Eric Lemartinel was in double form last week and his multiple Group 1 winner Nieshan, fifth in this race last year, looks the one they all have to beat although he does appear better over further. Gerald Avranche, who is based in Qatar but rides for the yard when he can, takes the ride and said: “He is a top quality horse and must have a big chance. Obviously it is his first run back and he will improve with a run under his belt but it is the obvious race to get him going again.”

Nieshan`s final run last season was when fifth in the Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night when he was one place ahead of the Doug Watson-trained Kandar Du Falgas who should appreciate Sunday’s 1600m trip. Watson said: “It is great he stays in training but seemed as good as ever last season despite now being a 10yo. This has been the plan and he seems in good order.”