Lemartinel dominates Al Ain feature and Al Alawi records a treble

Friday’s first meeting of the new season at Al Ain Racecourse was highlighted by a 1600m handicap in which Eric Lemartinel saddled half of the six runners and recorded a 1-2 for his main employer, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

However, stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, had to settle for second on RB Rich Surprise who could not get past stable companion, Tahany, partnered by Royston Ffrench.

Lemartinel’s third runner, last year’s winner, Hamza, tried to make all under Jesus Rosales, just as he had done 12 months ago but they were swamped by the winner and runner-up more than 200m out, eventually fading to finish fourth.

Ffrench and Tahany, the only filly in the field, took up the running and ran on gamely, always looking to be holding the second, despite the frantic urgings of O’Shea.

Ffrench said: “You always know when riding for Eric and Al Asayl, whether you are on the first or third string, you are going into the race with a chance.

“Eric told me to take my time, track the leaders and challenge in the straight, adding I would not be far away, so he was proved right.

“My season has started very well and long may it continue!”

After drawing a rare blank at Meydan on Thursday, the flourishing partnership of Pat Cosgrave and Helal Al Alawi combined for their eighth success of the campaign when RB Fired Up led close home in a handicap over 1800m.

Making only his second start locally, having won once in the US, the winner looked likely to score easily early in the straight but, ultimately, had to work hard to pass AF Tathoor, only leading close home.

Meydan Du Paon finished well to snatch second from a tiring AF Tathoor.

Cosgrave, who has also ridden a winner for Godolphin, moved to nine for the campaign, said: “Royston Ffrench rode this fellow the other day and said he needed the run so would have a big chance today.

“Happily, he was correct. This horse should improve again as he has done that tidily enough and battled when I needed him to.”

Trainer and jockey wasted no time in completing a double with the hard fought success of Astral Du Loup in the following 1600m maiden. Like all 15 runners, making his debut, Astral Du Loup needed rousting from the off by Cosgrave to secure a position just behind the leaders.

Still hard at work on the home turn, Cosgrave was able to conjure a telling challenge from his mount with the pair hitting the front about 50m from the line.

“The horses are running very well and Pat, as we all know, is a top jockey,” said Al Alawi. “We like this horse and he will improve now he has had a run so it was great he won.”

Al Alawi completed a treble in the finale, a 1400m maiden, in which his Nawwaf KB, despite a slow start, came home in front under Connor Beasley.

Having his fourth start, third locally and first since January, the four-year-old soon made up the ground he lost at the beginning and loomed into contention halfway up the straight.

They hit the front about 150m out, keeping on strongly to land the spoils.

Beasley said: “Obviously the trainer is in superb form and it is great to get a chance to ride a few for him.

“He has done that quite nicely in the end and conditions certainly seemed to suit him. There should be more to come from him.”

The opening 1000m handicap was turned into a procession by Extra Hope, trained by Satish Seemar for the always affable Ali Haddad. Ridden by Richard Mullen, the six-year-old mare was soon in front and put the race to bed just after halfway when scooting clear of her 11 toiling rivals.

It was her first UAE victory, on her sixth attempt and second career success having won a 1700m maiden, at Delaware Park in her native USA, in October 2015.

Mullen said: “I am over the moon to ride a winner for Ali who has been a great supporter of UAE racing for very many years but has not enjoyed much luck recently. He is always smiling though and is an absolute pleasure to ride for.

“It is also good to see our horses hitting form after a winner at Meydan last night and now this one. Hopefully there are plenty more to follow.”

The only Thoroughbred race was a 2000m maiden in which the maximum field of 15 faced the starter and about half of them led at some stage in a race of changing fortunes.

Entering the long straight, Mullen, Seemar and Haddad looked like they might complete a quick double with Dawwass who led with most of those in behind struggling.

That did not apply to Avenue Of Dreams, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, who threatened to provide apprentice Liam Tarentaal a first local winner, on just his fifth ride, when sweeping to the front soon after.

However, stalking him was stable companion, Quartier Francais, who cruised into contention under stable jockey, O’Shea who was afforded the luxury of a glance over his shoulder when they hit the front 300m out.

They were never going to be caught with Dawwass staying on well to deny Avenue Of Dreams second.

A three-year-old son of Street Cry, the winner was having only his second start and O’Shea explained: “He learned a lot from his first run, at Meydan two weeks ago and it has shown today when he has known more about what was required.

“That first run was over 1400m and this extra distance has suited him. It was probably not a great race but he can only improve with experience.”

Birthday boy Antonio Fresu celebrated his big day with an easy victory aboard AF Abahe in a 1600m maiden, the pair going one better than they had at Sharjah 13 days ago.

Trained by Ernst Oertel for Champion Owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, the four-year-old, also runner-up over this course and distance in March, was losing his maiden tag at the sixth attempt.

Fresu said: “I would have won easily on him at Sharjah last time but he was hanging right which cost him the race.

“He was still hanging right today but Al Ain is clockwise so it was not such a problem. He is still a big baby and will be better with more racing.”