Al Ain Opens Season on New Dirt Surface

Photo: Erika Rasmussen (

Jockey Ffrench Lands 200th UAE Winner

Friday saw Al Ain become the second UAE racecourse in two days to inaugurate a new dirt track as the venue opened it`s 2014-15 season.

The only Thoroughbred race on the card, an 1800m maiden, started proceedings, with the Ismail Mohammed-trained Respect Me running out an easy winner under Wayne Smith.

Smith settled his mount in third most of the way before the pair eased to the front early in the straight and they powered clear to win well.

“He had been working well,” said Smith. “We knew he would like the dirt and had shown us enough ability to be pretty hopeful. It is nice to ride a winner for the new boss.”

The official feature, a 1400m conditions race produced an impressive performance from RB Smokin Rich, having his first start on dirt and an easy winner under Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea.

O’Shea settled the winner in last in the early stages before edging closer 800m out and challenging the leaders 500m out. They hit the front soon after and ran on strongly.

Trained by Champion Trainer, Ernst Oertel, the winner has now won three of his five starts.

“We have some nice young horses and he is among them, said Oertel. He had a lot of weight for quite a small horse which was a concern but he has handled conditions nicely which gives us more options.

On an evening of wide margin winners, RB Torch and O’Shea notched a smooth victory in a 1400m maiden. Trained by Oertel and making his debut, O’Shea’s mount was slowly away but always travelling well at the back of the main pack.

The pair made relentless progress at 500m out, led 300m out and always had the race in safe keeping, despite the horse shying away from the whip 100m out.

O’Shea said: “He is just a big baby but has plenty of ability. He took me into the race strongly and quickened well before showing his inexperience close home.

“Hopefully he has a decent future.”

Royston Ffrench partnered his 200th UAE winner when making all the running on Majd Abu Dhabi, a second UAE winner for trainer Hardy Hotger, in a 1000m handicap.

Ffrench said: “He showed plenty of speed there and was not stopping at the line. It is nice to bring up such a landmark and I just have to thank the Al Raihe team and all the other trainers who have supported me.”

The 1600m maiden was won by Alameer, an easy winner for Dane O’Neill and Musabah Al Muhairi. O’Neill ousted his mount along in the early stages to ensure a prominent position before sending him to the head of affairs 400m out.

His mount responded enthusiastically and the pair posted an easy success.

Riding for his main employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, O’Neill said: “I wanted to be handy on him and this fellow stays further so I was confident to go for home early.

“It was not a great race but he won nicely and relished the surface.”

Racing concluded with a second 1000m handicap, won by the Helal Al Alawi-trained Safina Ghantoot and a first UAE winner for apprentice George Buckell.