Abu Dhabi Championship Highlights Final UAE Card Of 2020

Saturday December 19, 2020
The very final UAE meeting of 2020 is to be staged at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on Sunday, highlighted by the Abu Dhabi Championship, but also including two Thoroughbred races.

For 3-year-olds, the 1600m Listed Abu Dhabi Championship carries a healthy prize purse of AED180, 000 and, unsurprisingly, will be contested by a capacity field of 14, with two making their debuts.

Omani Ibrahim Al Hadhrami landed the spoils last year with the exciting Ihtesham, under Szczepan Mazur and has two chances this year with the Polish jockey aboard Asif. The colt won his debut, over 1600m on dirt in Muscat, but was well beaten on his only subsequent start, a fortnight ago, when only seventh in a conditions race over the 1600m Abu Dhabi turf course and distance of Sunday’s race. Stable companion Shoja’A Muscat fared better in that same race in the capital, finishing third, having also arrived the winner of his sole start in Muscat, in his case over 1200m. Omani apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi maintains the partnership.

The aforementioned 1600m conditions race, which was part of the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup card, was won by Hameem, chased home by stable companion Ottoman. Both are trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables and the latter is back in action under Connor Beasley who has ridden him in two of his three starts. However, the colt’s one victory, after three outings, was achieved on his sole dirt outing, over 1600m at Al Ain, when he and Mazur stormed home by ten lengths.

Representing the Al Asayl team of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Eric Lemartinel, Mujeeb, who won a 1400m Abu Dhabi maiden on debut was perhaps a bit disappointing when only a well beaten fifth, behind Ottoman, Shoja’A Muscat and Al Mansour NF in the oft referenced above conditions race.

The last named remains a maiden after three starts and is trained by Helal Alalawi who also saddles the only filly in the race, the debutante Lamhat Al Khalediah.

The better of the two Thoroughbred handicaps, the final race on the card, so thus last UAE race of 2020 is over 1400m and again the maximum allowed 14 will face the starter. Trainer Nicholas Bachalard has yet to taste defeat at Abu Dhabi this season having won with both previous runners, Boerhan who won the National Day Cup and its prep race, so his Graffiti Master catches the eye under apprentice Hugo Lebouc who picks up the mount with stable jockey, Ryan Curatolo, suspended. A 5-year-old Dubawi gelding, he will be having just his second local outing having been well beaten in last year’s National Day Cup, 378 days ago.

Bachalard said: “He has been off a long time and is badly drawn, so I would be hopeful rather than confident in what looks a strong race.”

For Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen, Kinver Edge has only had seven starts, winning twice, including his seasonal debut when impressing over 1400m on the Meydan dirt. The drop back to 1200m at the same track seemed not to suit him most recently and the 4-year-old Speighstown gelding will be having just a second career start on turf after finishing third on the Meydan grass on his local bow over 1400m in January.

Doug Watson saddles Alfolk who has not contested a turf race since his final outing for Mike de Kock in March 2019. A 6-year-old Lonhro gelding, his four career victories have all been achieved on turf in South Africa, most notably a 1000m Group Three at Turffontein almost exactly three years ago.

Watson said: “He has always trained like a nice horse and this is a good chance to get him back on turf. If he can run well here it gives us more options when Meydan race on turf, non-carnival obviously, next year.”

The American also saddles Rayig in the 1600m turf handicap, just a fourth start on grass for the 4-year-old Exceed And Excel colt. His sole victory was over 1600m up the Jebel Ali hill last November while his best turf effort was a close third, in a big field, over 1400m at Meydan in April 2019, his final start for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.

Watson said: “He has been working well and, like Alfolk, this is a good opportunity to get back on turf with Meydan next year in mind.”

With Curatolo unavailable, Bachalard has secured the services of Antonio Fresu to partner Baalbek, a maiden after just five starts, but likely to strip fitter after his first start for 435 days in a 1400m Jebel Ali maiden seven weeks ago. A 4-year-old Elusive Quality gelding, his best career finish to date was when runner-up over 1400m at Lingfield on the first of his three turf outings.

Bachalard said: “He needed that comeback run and has improved for the outing. He has a decent draw, so we will see how he goes. Fingers crossed he can run a nice race.”