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Watheeq Claims Sharjah`s Thoroughbred Race for Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid

Watheeq wins at Sharjah
Photo: Erika Rasmussen
(www.erikarphotography.com)

The prolific weekend of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum continued at Sharjah on Saturday afternoon with his Watheeq landing the only Thoroughbred contest, a 2000m handicap.

The UAE’s Champion Owner enjoyed four winners at Jebel Ali on Friday afternoon and Watheeq made it five consecutive winning races in which his famous blue and white silks had been represented.

Trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe, who celebrated a Jebel Ali double for the owner, Watheeq was ridden by Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, partnering a fourth winner for his boss in less than 24 hours.

“He did that very well today and can hopefully win again now he has put his head back in front,” said O’Neill.

“We were hopeful as he goes particularly well here at Sharjah and it did not look a strong race.

“We have enjoyed a great two days and long may it continue.”

They set a new track record in the process, dipping under the two minute barrier.

Sheikh Hamdan and O’Neill were denied in the featured 1700m handicap after the jockey attempted to lead all the way on Fantastique MHF, winner of the same race last year.

Turning for home a repeat looked on the cards but they had no answer to the late challenge of Ahmadani who hit the front at the 200m pole to win going away.

It was a second winner in two days for the combination of trainer Helal Al Alawi and jockey Royston Ffrench after the pair won Friday’s sole Purebred Arabian contest at Jebel Ali with AB Jalad.

“We knew the horse goes well here,” said Ffrench. “The yard are in decent form so we were hopeful of a good run and it was a good performance in a decent little contest.”

Owned and bred by Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, AF Hakeem made a winning debut in the opening 1200m maiden.

Never far off the pace under apprentice Manuel Fernandes, for whom he was a first UAE winner on only his fourth mount, he scampered clear with 400m to run and won well.

It was also a first winner from his new Desert 1 Stables base for former Champion Trainer Ernst Oertel.

“Obviously it is great to get the first winner on the board,” said Oertel. “I have some nice horses and am grateful to the owners who are supporting me.”

The following handicap, over the same 1200m, was won by Abu Al Maarek, registering his second course and distance victory and a first winner of the season for trainer Jaber Bittar.

Ridden by Sam Hitchcott, he chased the early pace before hitting the front inside the final 200m and staying on strongly to add this success to a maiden victory last December.

“It was the first time I have ridden him,” said Hitchcott. “I was pretty hopeful though as he goes well on this surface and ran very well when second last week.”

He was chased home by stable companion Ouasima who made good headway late on but never really threatened the winner.

George Buckell was another apprentice able to celebrate a winner, doubling his tally for the season when making all on AS Alkhattaf in a 2000m maiden.

A second, over the same course and distance in December 2012, had been the horse’s best previous placing in 12 attempts.

For trainer Saeed Hadher Al Mazrouei, it was a first winner of the new campaign with only his second runner. He saddled four winners in his first season with a licence last term.

On an afternoon when it appeared advantageous to race prominently, a positive ride from Champion Jockey, Richard Mullen, was rewarded aboard Mischievous MHF in a 1700m maiden.

Soon bustled to lead, the winner was never headed to supply trainer Jaci Wickham with her first winner of the season and lose his maiden tag at the ninth attempt.

His previous best effort was a second in the same race 12 months earlier.

“He has kept on well,” said Mullen. “I was actually second on him here last year so we knew conditions suited him.

“It is always nice to ride a winner for Jaci who does well with the horses at her disposal.”