Big Efforts From Secret Ambition, Hornsby Top Thursday Meydan Action

Meydan Racecourse staged the first UAE meeting of 2018 on Thursday evening, highlighted by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City - District One, a 1600m handicap on the dirt won by Secret Ambition. That win completed a double on the card for trainer Satish Seemar and his stable jockey, Richard Mullen.

In a thrilling finish, with half of the ten runners finally separated by a length and a half, Mullen’s mount was clinging on grimly to the lead he had taken about 200m from home. After being passed by the winner, Claim The Roses fought back, but finally lost second to the staying on Thegreatcollection.

Never far off the pace set by Royston Ffrench aboard Claim The Roses, Secret Ambition looked to be outpaced leaving the home turn where the leader skipped clear. Digging deep though and responding to Mullen’s urgings, he gradually eroded the gap, wearing down his rival before running on gamely when Thegreatcollection threatened late on.

“This horse is very good here at Meydan,” Seemar said. “The only time he ran badly here there was an excuse and he is a great horse to have in the yard.”

Mullen added: “He is a really consistent, tough horse who won here over 1400m a month ago when he had a tough race, but the but boss has freshened him up nicely. He always tries his best and has plenty of speed, but I thought Claim The Roses had stolen it off the bend and I was going to have to settle for second. But my fellow has really dug deep and, once in front, ran on strongly all the way to the line.”

The meeting opened with a 1600m maiden, the District One Cycling & Running Track, won impressively by local debutant Storyboard, initiating a brace for jockey and trainer. Raced just once previously, 400 days ago when trained in France by Andre Fabre for Godolphin, he is now with Seemar and was always travelling well behind the leader Dangerous Thought. With Mullen happy to take his time, Storyboard was only asked for a serious effort 400m out, soon hitting the front and never in danger afterwards.

“I have certainly started 2018 better than I ended 2017,” Mullen quipped. “He has been doing some nice work at home on dirt having come from France, but as we always say, you never know how they will handle it in a race until they try.

“We had a nice draw and I was always travelling well in behind Pat Dobbs on Dangerous Thought,” Mullen continued. “I was happy in his slipstream until I pulled him out when he picked up nicely but really stayed on strongly. He will certainly stay further judged on that performance and, with luck, is a nice horse for us going forward.”

Run at a ferocious pace, the 1200m handicap (District One Residences) was won by Drafted and rider Pat Dobbs. After having just one of his eight rivals behind him leaving the final turn, the Doug Watson trainee ran on strongly in the straight, swooping 200m out on stablemate Almanaara who, despite the widest draw in nine, had managed to get to the front and rail, under Jim Crowley.

Crowley’s mount, who had lost a shoe and needed to be reshod in the saddling area before the race, looked in control 400m out, but his early exertions took their toll in the final stages and he faded into third behind Scrutineer.

Dobbs said: “I did not plan to be that far back I must admit, but he was taken off his feet in the first 400m, so I just sat and suffered until the straight. Once I pulled him out, he really picked up well and has surprised us because we thought he was a 1000m horse! Based on this effort, you would think he will stay 1400m easily.”

It was a case of ‘third time lucky’ for Daffg, who lost his maiden tag by landing the District One Trophy, a 1400m conditions race restricted to three-year-olds. Trained by Ahmad bin Harmash, he was third on debut before a close second on his only other previous run. That was six weeks ago and ridden for the first time by Silvestre De Sousa, he stayed on resolutely to land the spoils here.

“He has obviously benefitted from that previous experience and I was always pretty confident,” De Sousa said. “He is a big baby and is only going to improve and will be better over further.”

The first turf race at Meydan this season was a 2000m handicap, the District One Villas, in which very few of the 12 runners were able to land a blow.

One who certainly did was Janszoon, having just his second local outing for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Always chasing the pace set by Sam Hitchcott aboard Grand Argentier, Janszoon challenged wide and was driven to the front entering the final 200m by Tadhg O’Shea.

The race looked all over but the horse seemed to wander in front and drifted across towards the rail, hampering Rio Tigre, close home.

O’Shea explained: “He is a nice new horse in the yard and is only going to get better. He travelled very strongly and took me to the front but has then idled a bit. He had plenty left in the tank and I hope (he) can build on this, which was only his seventh start and second for us having run well enough on dirt first time six weeks ago.”

The nightcap, a 1400m handicap, the District Mansions, was won impressively by Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Hornsby, who closed resolutely up the rail in the final 200m to post a comfortable victory under Mickael Barzalona. Ajwad finished a game second under Jimmy Quinn and Mukhmal was a useful third under Dane O’Neill.

The District One, a 2200m handicap, provided the easiest winner of the night when Montsarrat, sent straight to the front by Xavier Ziani, stayed there. Trained by bin Ghadayer, who saddled a Jebel Ali treble last Friday (when two of his winners beat a stable companion into second) he was chased home by more than 10 lengths by stablemate Pit Stop to give the trainer another one-two.

Xiani said: “He has always worked like a good horse, but has not been showing that ability on the track. We put the blinkers on today and from a very early stage I thought I had the race won. He is a very talented horse and has really enjoyed himself out in front. Hopefully the blinkers can work again next time.”