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Festival City Gives Apprentice Al Mazrooei Reason To Celebrate

Photo: www.erikarphotography.com

Racing returned to Sharjah on Saturday afternoon and the only Thoroughbred race, a 1000m handicap and the most valuable on the card, was turned into a procession by Festival City.

Local apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei was in the saddle for Abdulla bin Huzaim in a race generously sponsored by Sharjah Electricity and Water Company.

The pair jumped out in front, quickened clear just after halfway and were never going to be caught. They set a new track record and Al Mazrooei said: “I was always travelling strongly in front and then he quickened again. It was a good performance and we were pretty hopeful as he was second in a better race here at the end of last season.”

The first race of the Sharjah season, a 1200m maiden, was won by former Champion Jockey, Wayne Smith on Najem S’Heel for trainer, Saifaldin Deeb. The pair hit the front about 200m from home, sweeping past long time leader Safina Ghantoot who plugged on for second under Richard Mullen.

The winner was losing his maiden tag at the third attempt and Smith said: “Obviously that is a great way to start the afternoon and he picked up well enough when I asked him. He clearly likes it here as he was only just beaten first time last year and he should improve.”

Smith completed a first and last race double when steering the Jaber Bittar-trained Farooq to win the concluding 1700m maiden from stable companion Mor`eb.

The following handicap over the same 1200m trip was won comfortably by the Irfan Ellahi-trained JAP Naim, repeating his course and distance maiden victory of last December.

Xavier Ziani was in the saddle and explained: “We were very confident and the plan was simple – to jump out in front and keep him going. He has plenty of early speed is hard to pass.”

The pair went on to complete a double when JAP Rashad shed his maiden tag, at the 16th time of asking. He just held on from fast-finishing Zaffaan in the 1700m handicap.

Ziani said: “It has been a good afternoon and this track really seems to suit our horses.”

Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel and Tadhg O`Shea proved a formidable partnership last season and opened their accounts for the new campaign with debutante Afaal who showed a willing attitude to land a 1000m maiden.

O’Shea, sporting the famous colours of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said: “The trainer was confident and she has battled well to win. It is a great privilege to wear these silks for such an important owner.”

Oertel, on crutches having broken his leg in a riding accident over the summer, added: “We had a great season last time and can hopefully repeat that success.”