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Al Asayl Stables Look to Repeat in Ruler of Sharjah Trophy to Closeout Sharjah Racecourse 2014-15 Racing Season

Saturday’s final fixture of the season at Sharjah Racecourse is their biggest meeting of the campaign, highlighted by the Aed150,000 Ruler Of Sharjah Trophy, a 1700m conditions contest carrying prestige status.

It was won last year by the Al Asayl team with Molahen El Alhan scoring in the red and white silks of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and it would be something of a surprise if they do not follow up this year.

Trainer Salem Al Ketbi only saddles one runner, the exciting four-year-old Abhaar who made a winning debut over 1400m at Abu Dhabi and has won his three subsequent starts, all over 1600m on the capital’s turf track.

His three most recent wins have been achieved in good company; the Listed opening round of the Arabian Triple Crown, the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup and the Emirates Colts’ Classic.

All four starts have been won with ease and the extra 100m here should not be an issue, so, assuming he copes with the surface, he is going to very hard to beat under Tadhg O’Shea.

“He is a horse we really like and always have,” said O’Shea.

“We have some nice young horses and he is certainly one of the best and an exciting prospect for next season.

“He works well enough on dirt and hopefully he is the one to beat.”

The Jaber Bittar-traine Meftah Al Reef, well behind O’Shea’s mount on each of his two most recent outings, looks the most likely to benefit should Abhaar fail to fire.

A 1200m winner on the Sharjah dirt, he is at least proven on the surface, as is Ahmadani.

He will be ridden by Royston Ffrench for Helal Al Alawi.

The final race of the Sharjah season is the Sharjah Marathon, a 2700m handicap for which 12 have been declared, including two previous winners of the contest which was the longest Purebred Arabian race in the UAE until the Al Ain introduced a 3000m event last year.

There are two previous winners among the dozen, with Al Asayl trainer Salem Al Ketbi saddling last year’s victor Swyft and Doug Watson trying to land the race again with course specialist, Fantastique MHF, who won this in 2011.

However, of three Al Ketbi-trained runners, O’Shea has chosen Richly Blessed, leaving Shane Karlsson to ride Swyft and Wayne Smith picks up the spare mount on Razeen.

“All three have some kind of chance,” said O’Shea. “Hopefully I am on the right one.”

Similarly, Fantastique MHF has been overlooked by Paul Hanagan, first jockey to the horse’s owner, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Watson’s charge has the assistance of Sam Hitchcott (Dane O’Neill, second jockey to Sheikh Hamdan, would not be able to make the weight at 53kgs).

Hanagan has chosen to ride Zaffaan, trained by Musabah Al Muhairi for whom the jockey enjoyed three big race winners last weekend, including a Super Saturday double.

The Sheikh Hamdan duo and Al Asayl trio appear the quintet to concentrate on.

The equivalent race, in 2012 (when it did not carry the Sharjah Marathon tag), was won by a certain Versac PY, twice a Group One winner since, including last week’s concluding round of the Maktoum Challenge.