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Al Ain Racecourse stages its final meeting of the campaign on Saturday with a seven race card highlighted by the Final Leg Of The Al Ain Marathon Series, a 5100m Prestige handicap won last year by Balad Al Reef who looks sure to make a bold bid to defend his crown.
Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi, he will be ridden by Fernando Jara, as he was when landing the spoils last year, as well as when successful in the middle round of the series, over 3200m, in January.
The pair have also won the 4100m Al Ain Stayers Trophy this season, on his most recent start in February.
“He is just a real tough, genuine, stayer who goes very well at Al Ain over these extreme distances,” said Jara. “The handicapper has raised him again but, hopefully, his attitude and stamina will be enough to overcome that.
The first round, over 2700m, went to Sheikh Down, second in round two and fourth in the Stayers Trophy when stable companion, RB Rich Surprise, was second.
Both are trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Tadhg O’Shea has chosen to partner RB Rich Surprise.
“There is nothing between the pair judged on their most recent clash but, at the weights, RB Rich Surprise is favoured,” explained O’Shea. “Eric and the team at Al Asayl Stables look to have a strong hand at least but Balad Al Reef does appear the one we all have to beat.”
Lemartinel also saddles both Hamza, the mount of Gerald Avranche, and Snaffy, to be ridden by Richard Mullen with Royston Ffrench aboard Sheikh Down.
The only Thoroughbred contest is a 1600m handicap for which the maximum field of 15 has been declared and looks wide open.
Doug Watson saddles Paranormal, a 1200m handicap winner at Sharjah just last week when losing his maiden tag at the fifth attempt.
He stayed on strongly on that occasion and was also placed, at Sharjah, over 1700m on his local debut in October so the 1600m trip at Al Ain should be well within his compass.
“He came out of that race bouncing and very pleased with himself,” said Watson. “It is not ideal to run back so quick but it is the last suitable race for him this season and he seems full of himself so we are happy to let him take his chance.”
Satish Seemar sends out four from his base at Zabeel Stables with stable jockey, Richard Mullen, surely facing a tricky choice before opting for Jintshi on whom he was a staying on third over 1600m at Meydan last Thursday.
“That was a good ran and hopefully he can build on it,” said Mullen. “It was certainly not an easy choice and the boss appears to have a few good chances in the race.”
Among them would appear to be Seastrom on whom O’Shea picks up the ride. Partnered by Mullen, he landed a 1400m Al Ain handicap three starts ago but has failed to fire in three subsequent outings.
The return to Al Ain for just his second course outing could produce a revival though.
“It is a great spare ride and I am very pleased to be on Seastrom,” said O’Shea. “He is proven on the course and, with the Seemar team in such good form, I am hopeful of a big run.”