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Burj Khalifa is First Winner This Season for Al Asayl`s Salem Al Ketbi

Photo: Erika Rasmussen (www.erikarphotography.com)

Royston Ffrench Lands Al Ain Conditions Race

Al Ain`s final meeting of 2014, featured a 2000m conditions race on Saturday afternoon, which was won in determined fashion by Burj Khalifa, a first winner this season for trainer Salem Al Ketbi – the new resident trainer at Al Asayl Stables.

Only six went to post and Royston Ffrench settled his mount in third, quite wide, before giving chase to then leader, Haajeb 600m from home. The pair gained the initiative about 200m later but had to dig deep to hold off a renewed challenge from Haajeb.

“It was the horse’s first run on dirt,” said Ffrench. “His pedigree suggested it would suit and it has. The runner-up came back at us strongly but my horse has really dug deep and showed a great attitude.

“There should be more to come.”

Ffrench has been booting home plenty of winners in recent weeks and he was completing a double, having also been in the saddle on Murooj, sporting the colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Riding for his main employer, trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, Ffrench was never far off the pace before committing for home at the top of the straight. It was a race-winning move with the pair clear entering the final 300m.

The horse was losing his maiden tag at the seventh attempt in the process.

“He has been running well,’ said Ffrench. “That was only his seventh start and hopefully he can build on this.”

Trainer Al Ketbi later completed a double of his own when TM Junior Johnson won for the first time locally, scoring convincingly in a 1000m handicap.

Prolific on dirt when trained in his native America, he was having only his second UAE start on the surface and always looked likely to win under Champion Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea.

“He arrived with a very high rating,” said O’Shea. “He is a real dirt horse as he has shown today. Now he has put his head back in front, hopefully can win again.”

The meeting opened with an 1800m handicap and Silvestre De Sousa, fresh from four winners at Jebel Ali on Friday afternoon, made it five wins in seven races when driving Nichem Al Mels to lead in the dying strides.

It had appeared Maghazi was going to supply trainer Beverley Deutrom and apprentice Ali Alshowaikh their first UAE winners, but De Sousa had other ideas.

Trained by Ahmed Al Mehairbi, it was a second consecutive course victory for the winner who had landed a 2000m handicap four weeks ago.

“I was a bit short of room turning for home, said De Sousa. “I decided then to head for the rail and, luckily, the gaps appeared when I needed them and I was confident my horse’s was in front when it mattered.”

De Sousa was to complete a double in the only Thoroughbred race on the card, the concluding 1000m maiden in which he steered Conform With Fact to an easy victory for his main employer, Musabah Al Muhairi.

Jockey David Smith made his first ride at Al Ain a winning one, leading close home on the Yousef Al Bloushi-trained Reeh in a 2000m maiden.

Smith’s mount, opening his account at the fifth attempt, was racing on dirt for the second time.

Seemingly struggling at halfway, Reeh finished strongly in the final 500m, denying Swwing, ridden by Smith’s brother Wayne, in the final 100m.

“Funnily enough Wayne gave me plenty of advice about the track, said Smith. “I was confident my horse would stay well but we had plenty of ground to make up in the straight.

“About 300m from home I thought I might get there and the horse has responded well.”