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The HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, a 1700m handicap and only Thoroughbred race on the card, was the highlight of Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club’s final meeting of 2016 on Saturday afternoon.
It was won by Fa’Iz, trained by Frenchman Erwan Charpy and was produced with a steady challenge throughout the final stages to lead close home under the trainer’s compatriot Gerald Avranche.
For Fa’Iz, it was a second career victory both registered for Charpy on his 49th outing and 41st since switching to the UAE.
“The trainer seemed pretty confident and has his team in good form after a Jebel Ali winner yesterday,” said Avranche.
“Stamina was never likely to be an issue as he has run well over course and distance, as well as winning over 1600m at Jebel Ali and a good second at Al Ain over 1800m.”
“He has really stayed on well today and it was a good performance in a competitive race.”
Sixteen may have gone to post for the opening 1200m maiden but in reality very few ever threatened to win.
ES Fatek led throughout the first 900m but was then outpaced by fellow debutant ES Nahawand who had stalked him all the way under Adrie de Vries.
Once in front they never looked in any danger, winning comfortably and doubling the UAE tally of his trainer Ibrahim Aseel who only took out his licence this season.
“You never know how good these races are,” said the Dutch jockey. “However, I was always travelling strongly and he picked up nicely so, hopefully, he can only improve for this positive experience.”
The trainer wasted no time in registering a double on the afternoon, albeit in dramatic fashion and courtesy of a dead-heat. His ES Maydan passed the post in a 1200m handicap, arguably the best of the Purebred Arabian action, locked together with Fareedah, ridden by Szczepan Mazur.
Ridden by Sam Hitchcott, ES Maydan was never far off the pace and hit the front 300m from home, only to be headed almost immediately by Fareedah.
The race appeared over but Hitchcott’s mount was not for the beating and fought back, valiantly, to share the spoils right on the line.
“All credit to the horse,” said Hitchcott. “The other horse went past us pretty easily but my fellow has really fought back and put his head back level where it mattered.”
It was then the turn of De Vries and Al Hadhrami to complete doubles, but it looked most unlikely at halfway in the 1700m maiden.
At this stage of affairs De Vries and his mount, Salah Al Mels, were seemingly struggling in midfield with the leaders pulling clear.
However, entering the home turn De Vries started to get a response from Salah Al Mels and they powered down the straight to win going away.
“They went very quick early on and we struggled to stay with them,” said De Vries. “However, leaving the back straight we started to close and I always knew we would get there once we entered the straight.”
A similar scenario unfolded in the following 1700m handicap in which MH Kanz, ridden by Antonio Fresu, was unsighted throughout the early half of the race.
They only started to make ground on the turn for home before producing a telling finishing effort, which swept them to the front close home, in the straight.
The winner is trained by Elise Jeanne who continues to do extremely well with her small string and said: “We had a bad draw so the plan was always to be patient and bide our time.
“Antonio has followed the plan perfectly and delivered a challenge at exactly the right time to win the race well.”
The concluding 2000m maiden was dominated by trainer Abdallah Al Hammadi who saddled both first and second with Eiz Al Reef denying stable companion Al Watan.
The winner was partnered by Sam Hitchcott, completing his personal double on an exciting afternoon.
The final UAE meeting of 2016 is at Meydan Racecourse next Thursday.