Rakha Out to Defend Group 1 Title in Liwa Oasis

Arabian Triple Crown R3 Also Highlights Abu Dhabi Sunday

The Group 1 Liwa Oasis is the highlight at Abu Dhabi this Sunday and nine were declared for the 1400m feature, including last year’s winner Rakha, trained by Majed Al Jahouri for HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Royston Ffrench is again on board Rakha, one of three runners in the race for owner and trainer with stable companion Areem, winner of the last two National Day Cups at Abu Dhabi over 1600m, hoping to gain revenge on Rakha who caught him in the closing stages of this race 12 months ago.

Rakha’s most recent effort resulted in a dead-heat with Sha’Red in the Group 3 Al Ruwais when Sardan, the trainer’s third runner and the mount of Harry Bentley, made a pleasing local debut in fifth.

Al Jahouri said: “Areem loves it around Abu Dhabi and it was always the plan to go National Day Cup, Al Maktoum Challenge I and the Liwa Oasis. He won the National Day Cup well but things did not really go to plan in the Al Maktoum Challenge.

“The return to Abu Dhabi and turf will suit him and these are also Rakha’s ideal conditions, while Sardan will definitely appreciate the step up to 1400m.

“All three should run well.”

It is hard to disagree with the trainer and it would be no surprise were he to saddle the 1-2-3 with Wycked looking best of the remainder. Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, rides for Champion Trainer, Ernst Oertel and the pair were finishing fast in the Al Ruwais last time.

O’Shea said: “We had a bad draw that day and she did well to get as close as she did and, in a few more strides, we may well have won. This is a strong race obviously but Ernst’s horses remain in good form and she should run a nice race.”

The main support race is the third and final round of the Arabian Triple Crown, a 2400m contest restricted to four-year-olds and the Oertel/O’Shea combination will be looking to Nymphea Du Paon to again show her class.

First past the post in the opening round, but subsequently disqualified, she landed last week’s 2200m Group 3 middle round of the Triple Crown in style. She is penalised but, a Group 2 winner in her native France, she will surely be very hard to beat.

O’Shea explained: “She stayed the 2200m well last week and was not stopping at the line so hopefully she will stay the extra 200m. Coming back, over slightly further, just a week later is perhaps a concern but she is a very good filly.”

Stable companion Molahen El Alhan made all in last Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Colts’ Classic and could well be the main danger to O’Shea’s mount although he too has a penalty.

The Yousef Al Bloushi-trained Haanoof, third behind Nymphea Du Paon last week, looks the best of the rest with jockey Andrew Nienaber seeking a second UAE winner.

Nienaber’s mount is owned by Sheikh Mansour, as is Al Jahouri’s representative, Mubasher, the mount of Harry Bentley and just behind Haanoof in fourth last week.