Gabr Stars In Watson And Hitchcott Trebles

Friday November 13, 2020

Racing at Jebel Ali on Friday afternoon was officially highlighted by a 1600m rated conditions stakes for which just a select field of five went to post in a contest eventually dominated by the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum who also sponsored the race through his Shadwell breeding operation.

In a race all bar Sheikh Hamdan’s third runner, Mashaheer, threatened to win at some stage, it was left to Gabr to claim the spoils. Sam Hitchcott riding for Doug Watson, denying the owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, aboard Eqtiraan.

The latter looked the likely winner when cruising to the front with just over 400m to run, but when Hitchcott asked for maximum effort, Gabr, a 5-year-old son of Intello and gelded since last season, soon had his measure and won cosily to make a winning dirt debut. Twice a winner in Britain for Sir Michael Stoute, this was a first success in the UAE at the fifth attempt after three turf outings at Meydan, one in Abu Dhabi.

Watson said: “He has always shown a lot at home, but not so much in his races for us and this was a god spot to try him here at Jebel Ali. He obviously handled it so it gives us options. He stays 2000m, so I was happy 1600m here would suit him and I am very pleased with the horse and for Sheikh Hamdan.”

Watson and Hitchcott promptly doubled up in the main support race, a handicap over 1800m with course specialist Just A Penny taking over from stable companion Grand Argentier entering the final 250m when the pair already had their four rivals beaten. Settled in third of the six runners, Hitchcott aimed for the rail, finding a gap inside his stable companion and running on strongly to register his ninth career success, all at Jebel Ali. Both attempts at 1800m on his favourite course have been victorious.

Watson said: “He just loves this track as we all know and he really takes that bend so well which saves ground and is a big help around here.

Just A Penny is owned by Mohd Khalifa Al Basti as is Torno Subito who completed trebles for both Watson and Hitchcott in a 1600m maiden. Twelve went to post, but only two ever really mattered with Al Hadeer setting a furious early gallop under Connor Beasley and they had ten of their opponents beaten soon after halfway. The exception was Torno Subito who crept constantly closer in the straight before pouncing in the final 75m, the 5-year-old Shamardal gelding shedding his maiden tag at the tenth attempt.

“This horse had sore shins last season, but was still running nice races,” Watson said. “We have to thank the owner for giving us another season with the horse.”

Racecourse patron Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum introduced an exciting debutant in Shamikh, impressive winner of a 1400m maiden, restricted to 3-year-olds, in the hands of Ryan Curatolo, the new stable jockey for Nicholas Bachalard at the adjacent Jebel Ali Stables. Always travelling strongly just behind the leaders, the imposing Lea colt powered to the front about 375m from home and kept on strongly to make a first instalment, AED36,000, on his $430,000 purchase price.

It was a second UAE victory for Curatolo, but first for his new boss and he said: “This is a nice horse and we were very hopeful coming here today and that was a very pleasing debut from a nice prospect.”

Bachalard added: “He has been training really nicely in the morning, so we always knew he had plenty of ability and I am just delighted for the whole team to get the first winner of the season on the board, everyone has worked very hard.
“He will probably stay further and we might try him at Meydan as well, but this was a nice first race for him.”

Connor Beasley could have been forgiven for giving up when One Vision blew the start in a 1600m handicap and the pair were still last entering the long straight when Maqaadeer and Fraserburgh appeared to have their nine rivals in trouble. The latter and Royston Ffrench went to the lead 250m out and the race looked theirs, but in behind, Beasley and One Vision had been scything through the field before taking aim at Fraserburgh who he snared close home.

A 4-year-old gelded son of Shamardal, he was registering a second career success and first since a winning debut for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby in January last year. This was his sixth UAE appearance and fifth for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.

Beasley said: “They went pretty quick enough up front which has helped us after that slow start as has the application of blinkers. The surface is quite slow which also helped and I was always in a good rhythm. Once we started climbing the hill he has just picked up strongly and I was pretty confident quite a long way out.”

Royston Ffrench and Tailor’s Row probably led for 1940m in the finale, a 1950m handicap, only to be headed as the line approach by stable companion Untold Secret, produced with a perfectly timed challenge by Jose Santiago. Both are trained by Salem bin Ghadayer, the winner, an 8-year-old Shamardal gelding, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum, registering his sixth career, fifth local, third Jebel Ali, but first at this trip, victory.

Italian jockey Antonio Fresu had been forced to miss the first fortnight of the season after a positive Covid-19 test, but wasted no time opening his account for the season, landing the opening 1400m handicap for Purebred Arabians foaled in the UAE. He combined with Champion Owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda whose main trainer, Ernst Oertel, saddled four of the 13 runners, including winner AF Al Moreeb.

Like so many of the Al Nabooda horses, a homebred, the 5-year-old entire was doubling his career tally, his previous taste of victory having been achieved in a 1600m maiden on the Abu Dhabi turf in March 2019. This was a tenth racecourse appearance, third on dirt, for the winner who raced in about fifth before asked to challenge entering the final 450m, snatching the initiative 200m later and never looking in danger thereafter.

Oertel said: “He is a very nice horse who was just too high in the handicap last season, but has now come down in the weights which has helped him win again.”

Fresu added: “I lost two weeks of the season, but at least it was at the beginning of the campaign and obviously it is nice to have a winner on my comeback ride.”