Marathon Series Third Leg And Al Ain Derby Featured Friday

A fascinating seven-race card at Al Ain on Friday includes the Al Ain Derby, but is officially highlighted by the Final Leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a 5100m handicap with Prestige status, which was inaugurated in 2015 and won by just three horses, two of whom are in action again this year.

Pride of place goes to Balad Al Reef, thrice a winner, having landed the second running in 2016 and successful again 12 months later and again last year in 2019. Trained by Ahmad Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, the 9-year-old landed his latest start, the 4100m second round of the series, a race he also won in 2017. That second round victory, a fortnight ago, was achieved under Connor Beasley, but Szczepan Mazur, aboard in this race last year, takes over here.

“I won this race on him last year and he obviously stays very well,” Mazur said. “I am happy to be back on him in a race that clearly suits him. Hopefully, he is the one to beat.”

For the same owner and trainer, the opposition includes two of the horse’s full-brothers, Bishara Al Reef and Hareer Al Reef, the mounts of Jose Santiago and Fernando Jara, respectively. The latter was aboard Balad Al Reef when he won this race in both 2015 and 2016.

When Balad Al Reef was only fourth in the 2018 renewal, it was won by Ajjaj, who is seeking a second victory in this race for Jean de Roualle. Richard Mullen rides in the colours of Al Wathba Racing. The 9-year-old has not actually won since landing this two years ago but was third last year and was a close third in the 4100m second round of the 2020 challenge.

De Roualle said: “The horse is only carrying 53kgs this week and has been carrying 60kgs in these races at Al Ain recently, so that has to be a positive. Obviously, he is not getting any younger, but we hope, with that low weight, he can run a big race.”

The reason that Ajjaj only carries 53kgs is because the weights are headed by Dupleix, who has an official rating of 100, which has compacted the weights with only he and Balad Al Reef actually able to compete off their true handicap marks. Trained by Erwan Charpy for Fakhar Abu Dhabi, the 7-year-old gelding will be having just his third UAE outing and first locally outside of Group 1 company.

“He won over 2500m in France and since joining us has suggested he needs a stamina test,” Charpy said. “That said, this is an extreme test, but we are hoping it will suit him and he can run well.”

Also a Prestige contest, but restricted to 4-year-olds foaled in the UAE, the 1800m Al Ain Derby has attracted the maximum allowed field of 15. Again, Mullen and De Roualle appear to hold leading claims, but this time with Musheer Al Wathba. This will be just his fourth career start and he is unbeaten on dirt, having won his sole outing on the surface in a 1600m Al Ain maiden on his penultimate start. He was then second in the Emirates Colts Classic, a 1600m Prestige event, on the Abu Dhabi turf.

The main dangers would appear to include Maqam for Eric Lemartinel under Fabrice Veron and Margaza, to be ridden by Jara for Ana Mendez.
First race post time is 5:00 p.m. Download the Racing ERA application for more information.