Iftitah Continues Seemar-Mullen Hot Streak At Al Ain

Al Ain staged their first meeting of 2019 on Friday afternoon, which was a seven-race card highlighted by the lone Thoroughbred handicap over 1400m. The event was won in determined fashion by Iftitah, ridden by Richard Mullen for trainer Satish Seemar, who had combined to win the previous evening’s Dubawi Stakes (G3) on opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan.

Always travelling well for Mullen, Iftitah cruised into contention on the home turn before, pulled slightly wide, gaining the initiative with 450m still to run. They quickened clear, seemingly with the race won but had to dig deep close home to hold off the late challenge of Jintshi, formerly trained by Seemar. A 5-year-old gelding by Harbour Watch, Iftitah was registering a fourth career victory.

“The horse deserves that because he has been knocking on the door since we have had him and was doing the same last season for Fawzi and his team,” said Mullen, who was completing a quick double. Basically, if you leave him alone, out of traffic and let him travel at a speed he is comfortable with, he is happier that way. Hopefully now that he’s won again, it will do his confidence the power of good.”

The opening 1400m maiden, restricted to 4-year-olds in private ownership, was another race contested by the maximum field of 15, but only one ever really mattered with Mullen sending AF Alnwha straight to the front and they probably never saw a rival. Skipping clear early in the straight and never in danger subsequently. Trained by Ernst Oertel for his main patron, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, the homebred filly was making it third time lucky having previously finished well beaten in both her debut, over the same course and distance in November and again, over 1600m, on the Abu Dhabi turf in the Abu Dhabi Championship (Listed PA).

“She is a nice filly and learning all the time,” Oertel said. “As I keep saying, I am very fortunate to train these smart horses for Mr. Al Nabooda, who is such an enthusiastic owner and breeder.”

Representing the powerful Al Asayl team, RB Burning Ash was impressive when landing the best of the Purebred Arabian action, a 2000m handicap, with Fabrice Veron in the saddle for owner His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trainer Eric Lemartinel.

“You always know you have a chance riding for these connections and the trainer told me to try and get some cover early on so that is what I did,” Veron explained. “Then, when I have needed space to challenge I pulled him out wide where he has really quickened and finished very strongly. We had a nice low weight today and, luckily, we have been able to take full advantage of it.”

He may have been reluctant to load, dislodging Fernando Jara behind the stalls before the 1600m handicap, but there was nothing wrong during the race with the attitude of bottom weight JAP Malawih, who having disputed the lead throughout the first half of the race was committed for home a full 450m out and won well.

Riding for Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum and the owner’s principal trainer, Irfan Ellahi, Jara was delighted with the outcome and said: “I was happy to be asked to ride him as I thought he had a big chance but he was quite green throughout most of the race so is only going to get better with experience. Irfan does very well with the horses he has and his team have been in good form all season.”

A maiden over 1800m was won by Officer who, as he was on his debut and only previous start, at Al Ain over 1400m, was slowly away and seemingly outpaced throughout the first half of the race.

However, on this occasion over further and given plenty of time to find his stride by Gerald Avranche, riding for Abdallah Al Hammadi and Al Ajban Stables, he made relentless progress throughout the straight, hitting the front in the final 100m.

Connections wasted no time completing a course and distance double with, in almost a carbon copy of the home straight finish of Officer, Hareer Al Reef powering down the straight to lead in the closing stages in the following 1800m handicap, supplementing their 2000m Sharjah victory just six days ago.

Avranche said: “The yard is in good form and Officer had learned a lot from his debut but is still a baby who should again improve. I won at Sharjah on Hareer Al Reef just last Saturday, so running again so quickly was a slight concern but he has won that very well today.”

The finale, a 1000m conditions race for horses who had not won more than once previously went, stylishly, to Lou Raynal, making his local debut a very impressive winning one with Xavier Ziani riding for Yousif bin Ghilan. A 7-year-old entire by Kerbella, this was 18th career start, but only second on dirt and he was doubling his career tally having registered his maiden victory in the UK on the all-weather at Wolverhampton over 1200m. That was in June 2017 on his sixth racecourse appearance.