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Saturday’s seven race card at Al Ain Racecourse is highlighted by the finale, a 2000m handicap for which 14 have been declared, headed by the Eric Lemartinel-trained pair of RB Torch and Hamza.
Both are owned by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Champion UAE Jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, elects to ride Hamza with Gerald Avranche aboard RB Torch.
Twice a winner late last season, including the 1700m Ruler Of Sharjah Trophy, Hamza will be having his fifth start of the current campaign and ran well on his only previous Al Ain outing, three starts ago.
“They are two nice horses and both galloping well at home,” said O’Shea. “Hamza ran well at Meydan last time and was a good second at Al Ain before that so conditions are fine for him.
“RB Torch had a very good campaign last time around but has yet to get it all together on the track this season.
“Both should be competitive and give Al Asayl Stables a strong hand in the race.”
Despite the big field, it is hard to make a case for many of the runners but another trainer dual handed is Erwan Charpy and both Cheik Roque and Jabal Aly look to hold strong claims.
The former, the mount of stable jockey, Antonio Fresu, has yet to run on dirt but looked useful when winning at Abu Dhabi’s final meeting of last season.
He has well beaten on his only run of this campaign but should strip a lot fitter here.
Stable companion, Jabal Aly, will be ridden by Marc Monaghan and won a 1600m maiden here at Al Ain just under a year ago.
“Both have been in good form at home and we are happy with them,” said Charpy. “It is a competitive race but we have two decent chances hopefully.”
The Frenchman saddles three in the only Thoroughbred race, an 1800m handicap in which his Tartoor heads the weights.
Owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has five in the race, Tartoor is the choice of retained jockey, Jim Crowley.
Of Charpy’s other pair, Fresu elects to ride Fai’Iz, a winner at Sharjah on his latest outing with Monaghan aboard Amaan, another owned by Sheikh Hamdan.
“Fa’Iz and Tartoor both won in December and remain in good heart so should go well,” said Charpy. “We also like the chance of Amaan who has been pleasing us at home.
“It is hard to split the trio so, hopefully, they can all go close.”
O’Shea rides another of the Sheikh Hamdan runners, Alraased, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi as was the jockey’s Al Maktoum Challenge R1 winner Le Bernardin on Thursday at Meydan.
After two good runs, including a victory at Sharjah, he was a bit disappointing at Meydan last time but cannot be discounted after a short break.
When Alraased won at Sharjah, he was ridden by Dane O’Neill, also retained by Sheikh Hamdan, and who chooses to ride Qannaas, another trained by Al Rayhi.
Third behind Fa’Iz on his most recent outing, he is trying this longer trip for the first time and, if he stays, is another to consider in a very competitive heat.