Doubles For Fresu And Mazur At First Al Ain Meeting

The last of the five UAE racecourses to stage a fixture this season, Al Ain hosted a seven-race card on Thursday with the only Thoroughbred race, a 1000m handicap, which was won stylishly by Dombra, who was never far off what appeared a frantic gallop from the outset. Confidently ridden by Antonio Fresu for trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri, in doing so he became a first ever winner for owners Al Rashid Stables with just their second runner. A 3-year-old gelded son of the mighty Frankel, he entered the starting stalls a maiden after nine starts, seven in Britain for Hugo Palmer, just two since joining current connections for 32,000 guineas at Tattersalls last October.

Well beaten on his local debut at Jebel Ali in March over 1400m, when he failed to beat a rival, he was again last on his seasonal return over 1200m, at Meydan three weeks ago. However, he showed plenty of dash here and once in front 300m out, was never going to be caught with Bueller and Rich And Famous both staying on from the rear to take the minor honours.

Fresu said: “He has clearly taken well to the surface here at Al Ain and showed plenty of speed throughout the contest. Once I sent him to the front I always thought we had the race won and so it proved.

“He is only a 3-year-old and you would like to think he can go on from this because it was a good win in what looked a competitive race.”

Sandro Paiva and AF Metawed led virtually throughout the 1600m handicap, only to be denied in the dying strides by Antonio Fresu and MH Wari who finished fast and late to snatch a dramatic victory.

Saddled by Elise Jeanne for Mansoor Khalifa Sultan bin Habtoor who also bred the 6-year-old, the winner had only six previous outings to his name, most recently when losing his maiden tag over 1600m on the turf at Abu Dhabi three weeks ago under Fresu.

A delighted Jeanne said: “Antonio gets on really well with this horse who is not the easiest, but certainly has the ability as he has shown both runs this season.

“Before tonight his best form was on turf, but he has now won on dirt as well which gives us plenty more options with him.”

Fresu, completing a double, added: “I have always liked this horse, although he could be tricky to ride, but he was just a big baby and has grown up a lot over the summer. He will stay further.”

Fourteen went to post for arguably the highlight of the Purebred Arabian offering, a 1800m handicap, but very few were ever able to get involved with AF Taraha making a bold bid from under Tadhg O’Shea, only to be headed in the final 150m by Duc De Faust and Szczepan Mazur.

AF Taraha battled back, but never looked likely to regain the initiative from Mazur’s mount, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Ibrahim Al Hadhrami for the Royal Cavalry Oman and recording a third career success, but initial victory on dirt at the seventh attempt. Making his seasonal debut and tackling the second longest trip he has attempted, he was always seemingly going well for Mazur before making smooth progress approaching the long straight and giving serious chase to AF Taraha from the 500m pole.

Mazur said: “I was always pretty happy and he has really battled hard in the final 300m to get past a very determined rival.”

O’Shea did not have to wait long to taste victory, landing the following 1600m maiden aboard AF Yahawa, like AF Taraha trained by Ernst Oertel for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. Homebred, the 4-year-old colt was having his sixth career outing and second this season having finished a respectable fourth over 1000m at Sharjah less than two weeks ago.

Held up in midfield by O’Shea, the pair made smooth progress just after halfway before hitting the front with about 400m remaining, sweeping past Pharitz Oubai with the race seemingly over. However, the latter battled back, pushing the winner all the way to the line with the pair well clear of the remaining dozen runners.

O’Shea said: “Credit to the horse because the second has made him work very hard for that and both have showed a really determined attitude. My fellow clearly liked it here at Al Ain as he ran well when second over 1600m in March.

“Now he has put his head in front it would be nice to think he can progress and win again.”

Connections then had to settle for second again in the following 1600m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE in which O’Shea went straight to the lead on AF Arrab, but they had no answer to the challenge of Asslan Al Reef who shot clear 300m out to win easily.

Making just his second racecourse appearance, the 4-year-old was a bit tardy at the start, but soon tracking the leaders under Pat Cosgrave, sporting the lime green silks of Al Ajban Stables for trainer Abdallah Al Hammadi. When Cosgrave asked him to throw down a serious challenge the response was instant, the pair pulling clear with the horse having clearly benefitted from his debut when a distant fourth over 1400m on the Abu Dhabi turf a fortnight ago.

“He was a bit lazy both from the stalls and in the early part of the race,” Cosgrave said. “However, he really picked up well when I asked him and has won that in good style.
“You would hope he is going to improve for that experience and should certainly be better over further as he was really staying on strongly.”

Restricted to horses in private ownership, the opening 1400m maiden was won in determined fashion by Bolereau, trained locally at The National Stables of Helal Al Alawi and winning for the first time at the eighth attempt for owners Abu Dhabi Racing.

Having chased the speed throughout, the 4-year-old responded gamely to the urgings of jockey Connor Beasley with the pair finally hitting the front close to home in an exciting finish. A close third over the same course and distance in April, he was beaten by a length when runner-up on the turf at Abu Dhabi on his seasonal reappearance at the end of October, also over 1400m.

Al Alawi said: “The horse deserved that because he has run some good races in defeat and has shown good form on both turf and dirt.

“He has shown a really good attitude throughout the straight and we are obviously very pleased with the win.”

The finale, a 1400m maiden, was turned into a procession by debutante Marmara XM, probably never headed as she completed doubles for Mazur and Al Hadhrami. It was just a third winner for owner Ali Ebraheem Buhendi Abdulla Al Hosani, but on this evidence he could have a smart 3-year-old filly on his hands.