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Zaffaan Brings Home the Sharjah Goods for De Sousa

Photo: Erika Rasmussen (www.erikarphotography.com)

The official feature at Sharjah yesterday afternoon, a 1700m handicap, was won by the HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned Zaffaan, patiently ridden by Silvestre De Sousa for his main employer, Musabah Al Muhairi.

George Buckell and Kanjani set a furious early tempo, stalked by Fantastique MHF, the choice of Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill and one of the first beaten. Kanjani managed to maintain his lead until about 300m from home but was then swamped by the chasing pack, eventually finishing sixth.

Meanwhile, De Sousa and Zaffaan had skipped clear, posting a comfortable win.

“They went very quickly in the first half of the race,” said De Sousa. “That has really helped me as we know this horse stays well as he has won over course and distance before, as well as being placed over 2000m.

“As we entered the final bend I could see the leaders were coming back to me and we were still going nicely. It was fairly straight forward in the end.”

Fresh from their Jebel Ali double on Friday afternoon, trainer Doug Watson and stable jockey, Pat Dobbs, combined to win the only Thoroughbred contest, a 2000m handicap, with Diwaan.

A course and distance handicap winner on his previous outing two weeks ago, when losing his maiden tag at the ninth time of asking, he required a photo finish on that occasion. Yesterday could not have been more different as he romped home seven length clear of his nearest rival.

“I was always going well,” said Dobbs. “I was happy sat just off the speed and knew he would run all the way to the line so went for home at the top of the straight. He quickened nicely and put the race to bed in a few strides.”

Racing opened with a 1200m maiden and AR Bint Al Arab made virtually every yard of the running under Royston Ffrench, riding his 14th winner of the campaign and a sixth success of the season for trainer Helal Al Alawi.

It was a third career start for the filly who showed promise when third over course and distance on her debut but was well beaten subsequently at Jebel Ali.

“She clearly likes it here,” said Ffrench. “I was always at the head of affairs and she battled when challenged. It may not have been a great race but she won well.”

The trainer looked set to complete a swift course and distance double when Safina Ghantoot shot clear at halfway in the following conditions race over the same 1200m trip. Ridden by apprentice George Buckell, Al Alawi’s charge was still clear entering the final 200m but ran out of steam soon after.

It appeared they would still manage to hold on until Afaal, ridden by apprentice Daniel Muscutt, stormed down the nearside rail to lead in the final strides.

“We did not get the best of breaks,” said Muscutt. “They went pretty quick and she really responded well in the final 300m. She won a 1000m maiden here on debut so we knew the surface suits her.

“That was only her third career start and hopefully she will keep improving.”

The following 2000m handicap produced a thrilling finish with Oisin Murphy producing the Jaci Wickham-trainer Ma’Error W’Rsan to lead in the final strides and deny Es Zeriyab who had led a long way out but was headed by Ameer Al Sraya as they turned for home.

Es Zeriyab and apprentice Saeed Al Mazrouei fought back gallantly, only to be robbed of success right on the line.
“We were drawn high and forced to race quite wide a lot of the way,” said Murphy. “We know he stays well and he has put his head in front where it matters. This is his second win here at Sharjah.”

The concluding 1700m maiden was won by the Jaber Bittar-trained Balad Al Reef, who tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when swerving, while ahead, under Jesus Rosales 100m out. However, the jockey was quick to straighten him and they regained the lead from Mariam Dubai close home.