Duc De Faust Leads The Charge In Friday Al Ain Feature

Al Ain hosts a busy meeting on Friday with, as always, lots of runners on a seven-race card, including six for Purebred Arabians and highlighted by a quality 2000m handicap.

In the Royal Cavalry of Oman silks, Duc de Faust looks likely to make his presence felt, despite having to concede weight to most of his 14 rivals. Trained by Ibrahim Al Hadhrami, the 7-year-old gelding was last seen in action when fourth in a 1600m conditions race in Muscat in late November. Twelve days earlier he was in the Al Ain winner’s enclosure, having landed a handicap over 1800m. In said event, he stayed on strongly under Szczepan Mazur, who is again in the saddle. That was his first dirt success and connections will be hoping for a repeat over the extra 200m here.

Mazur said: “He stayed the 1800m at Al Ain well that day, so hopefully the slightly longer trip will suit.”

Richard Mullen had plenty of options as to which horse to ride, opting for Somoud, a homebred 6-year-old entire trained by Ahmed Al Mehairbi for Yas Horse Racing Management. He has not been out of the first two in any of his five most recent starts, with the latest a 1700m victory at Sharjah in in HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup, a prestige handicap.

Mullen said: “These decisions are never easy, but clearly the horse is in good form.”

Ana Mendez has made a bright enough start to her UAE training career and saddles Yaraa, a 5-year-old mare homebred by Sheikh Mansoor and an excellent second over 1700m at Sharjah on her one start this season when chasing home Somoud. That was just her third local, second on dirt and seventh career appearance with her one victory registered on debut in France over 1200m on turf.

The solitary Thoroughbred contest, a 1400m handicap, appears exceptionally competitive. For Doug Watson and Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, Sheeba, an 8-year-old gelded son of Nayef has to be respected off a joint career-low handicap mark of 65. A dual Meydan winner on dirt, over 1600m in December 2016 then 2000m in March 2018, he is due another victory. The latter victory was off a mark of 70, but a handful of consistent placed efforts ensured his rating took a long time to fall from a high of 82. Runner-up over 2000m at Sharjah off 65 last February, his final start of last season, he was well beaten on his only outing this term, off 66, at Meydan, but that was under an apprentice. Pat Dobbs takes over here.

Sheikh Hamdan’s Mutawakked, in the care of Musabbeh Al Mheiri, doubled his career tally when landing his seasonal reappearance over 1400m at Jebel Ali at the beginning of November. A 5-year-old gelded son of Kodiac, he has not been seen in competitive action since, but can clearly run well after a break and his yard have been going well.

Second in that Jebel Ali race was Rich And Famous, to be saddled in opposition again by Salem bin Ghadayer for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. A 6-year-old Bernardini gelding, he has run twice since including a 1000m third here at Al Ain, so it would appear the surface holds no terrors for him. The main concern is he has not won since April 2017, over 1200m at Doncaster and his second and to date most recent victory. This will be career start 20 and number 11 in the UAE.

From a pair of Satish Seemar runners, Mullen has opted to partner One Season, a 1000m Sharjah winner on his seasonal debut before finishing well beaten over the same trip here at Ain and then third over 1200m at Sharjah. A 5-year-old gelded son of Showcasing, he needs to prove his stamina for this trip, but certainly cannot be discounted in a wide-open contest.