Marathon Regulars Set To Dominate Al Ain Feature

Seven races at Al Ain on Saturday, highlighted by the Second Leg of The Al Ain Marathon Series, a 4100m handicap for which just five have been declared, the weights headed by Balad Al Reef, a veteran of these races in the Garden City.

Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for his main patron, Al Ajban Stables, the 10-year-old rarely misses any of these races and can boast three victories in the finale of the series, a 5100m Prestige Handicap. He has also won half of his four attempts at the 4100m trip, this race in 2017 and again last year, at the very end of February and his most recent visit to the winner’s enclosure.

The mount of Szczepan Mazur, he is joined in the field by his ‘baby’ full-brother, the 8-year-old Hareer Al Reef, a relative novice in these stamina tests and representing the same connections under Royston Ffrench. Runner-up in the 3200m first round last year, he was then well beaten in this behind his brother before chasing home another stable companion, Octave, in the 5100m finale when ‘big brother’ was only fourth.

Al Hammadi said: “These Al Ain staying races seem to really suit several of our horses, including these two. Both stay well, and further, so the trip is certainly not an issue and we hope both at least go close.”

However, trained on the Al Ain track for Yas Racing by Jean de Roualle, another trainer who has proved a dab hand in these races, Ajjaj was far too good for the Al Hammadi pair in the 3200m opening round three weeks ago. Another 10-year-old among the quintet set to face the starter, he won this 4100m round in 2018, but was a disappointing fifth, behind Balad Al Reef last year.

De Roualle said: “With only five runners it is likely to be tactical and my horse stays well, but is not slow which might be a vital asset if it turns into a sprint at the end.

“There might only be a small field, but it looks pretty competitive and I am happy with my horse and looking forward to it.”

The field is completed by Jeemi and RB Grynade, both trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Fabrice Veron on the latter, third to Ajjaj three weeks ago when partnered by Tadhg O’Shea.

That leaves the ride aboard Jeemi for O’Shea, the pair having combined to win this race in 2019, from Balad Al Reef. That was actually his most recent victory and the duo were only a distant fourth, behind that same rival, in this last year.

With no Thoroughbred race on the card, the main support contests are a pair of conditions races, the first over 1600m. twelve have been declared, including Majd Du Loup. With a lofty official rating of 100, the 9-year-old should be the one to beat on just his fourth local outing.

Trained by Mohammed Al Shamsi for Rabdan Racing, he has the assistance of Elione Chaves in the saddle and the pair should find this a lot easier task than the 1600m Group 2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah in which they were well beaten at Meydan just last Thursday. His previous two local outings were both at the end of last season, over 2200m on the Abu Dhabi turf, in the Group 1 HH President Cup, on this weekend, and the Group 1 Emirates Championship, so Saturday’s race is by far the weakest he has contested in the UAE.

In the 1000m conditions event, the finale, Yas Racing’s Rawaa, rated 100, is another taking a big drop in class having also finished well beaten in the Mazrat Al Ruwayah. Trained by Majed Al Jahoori, she also contested the 1600m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1, actually running well for a long way, before switching to turf in Abu Dhabi, for the 1200m Group 3 Al Ruwais, finding only National Day Cup winner AF Alwajel too good.

These are much calmer waters and she is unbeaten over 1000m, landing a similar race to this over course and distance on her only previous try last January when in the care of Ana Mendez.