Mashhur Al Khalediah Assures Victory In The Jewel Crown

Sunday’s card at Abu Dhabi was highlighted by the most valuable race of the season staged in the capital, the Group 1 AED 5,000,000 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown. Over 1600m on turf, it was won by Mashhur Al Khalediah, who was providing a truly cosmopolitan result as he snared the prize in style.

Trained in Newmarket by an Englishman Phillip Collington the 5-year-old horse was ridden by Frenchman Jean-Bernard Eyquem for Saudi Arabian owners Athbah Racing. It was a sixth career victory for the horse in what was his local debut.

With RB Money To Burn setting a strong pace, last year’s winner Al Shamoos and this year’s victor settled in just behind, with the former making her bid for glory with about 450m remaining. However, Eyqem had her in his sights and shot to the front about 250m from home, opening up a substantial advantage in what proved a race-winning move. His mount was either lonely or tiring in the final 100m, allowing the chasing pack a glimmer of hope, but the winning post came too soon for them with Bel’Izam and Chaddad taking the minor honours. It was the winner’s first start since a third in the Arabian World Cup at Longchamp in October.

“He can start to misbehave if he is somewhere too long, so we decided to arrive quite late (into the UAE) and it has worked out,” Collington said. “This was a plan for him for a while and it has worked out perfectly. Jean-Bernard knows this horse so well and gave him a brilliant ride and I am indebted to the owners for allowing me to train this calibre of horse. It is why I started training.”

Carrying Prestige status, the 1600m HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak (IFAHR) Apprentice Jockey Championship was won for a sixth consecutive year, the latest five trained by Eric Lemartinel, by a runner owned by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in this instance Bainoona.

A 6-year-old mare, who had the assistance of Italian Riccardo Iacopini, she was winning for the sixth occasion, but first since a course and distance handicap victory last December from no less than AF Maher, subsequently winner of the Group 1 Kahayla Classic at Meydan in March. Given a confident ride by the young Italian, she was eased into contention on the home turn before swooping to the lead at the 200m pole, shooting clear before seeming to get lonely close home, but never in any danger of defeat.

Iacoponi said: “I look up to some of the top Italian jockeys in the world, like Christian Demuro and Frankie Dettori. Everybody is a fan of Frankie. It was a really very good race and there was a bit of a challenge at the start, but then I managed to get the horse to do what I wanted to do and we won. It's an incredible feeling winning on my first ride on an Arabian abroad. I have ridden Arabians in the past and won at Rome's Cappanelle Racecourse, where I am based. It was the 70th win of my career for me and feels very special.”

Also over 1600m and a Prestige contest, the HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship (IFAHR) went to the same owner and trainer with Asyyad, who actually won the apprentice race on this card last season.

In a race contested at a furious gallop, set by Arif, Asyyad raced in third of the ten runners before, as the leader understandably tired, he cruised to the front under Victoria Larsen, the pair darting away from the other nine to win easily. The winning 5-year-old gelding earned a fourth career victory and third on turf, having most recently won on dirt at Al Ain in February.

Denmark’s Larsen was ecstatic and said: “I cannot believe it. I am loss for words. Obviously I hoped to come here and win on the biggest of stages, so to actually do so is amazing.”

Proceedings kicked off with the only Thoroughbred contest, a 2200m handicap in which Jim Crowley, riding for his main employer HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made the perfect start to his UAE season with a victory aboard Mudaarab.

After a tardy start, Crowley was forced to bide his time on the 5-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor, nearer last than first of the main group of runners and seemingly with little racing room. However, as the field swung for home the gaps appeared and they powered down the centre of the track to snatch the spoils in the closing stages. It was a third career victory for the horse, but first since leaving Sir Michael Stoute and joining Erwan Charpy, who currently has his string in great form.

Crowley said: “The plan has been to sit handy, but we were a little bit slowly away, so I took my time and was able to get out of traffic on the bend after which he has finished the race off nicely. Once he went past the first horse, he was enjoying himself and it is great to see him bounce back after a quiet spell. Credit to Erwan and his team. They do a great job with these horses.”

Charpy added: “This is a nice horse who ran some good races last season and we always thought Abu Dhabi would suit him. Once Jim had him on the bridle, he was progressing throughout and that will have done the horse’s confidence a lot of good. We may well bring him back here to the capital over 2400m next month because we know he stays well.”

Restricted to horses in private ownership, the 1400m handicap was won stylishly by Jawal Al Reef, swooping late under Richard Mullen to claim a second career victory. Trained by Hassan Al Hammadi for Ahmed Ebrahim bin Aaamer Al Shemeili, the 6-year-old entire was settled in midfield, albeit wide throughout, before producing his decisive finish.

“It is always nice to get a winner on a big night like this,” Mullen said. “We all have to thank Sheikh Mansoor for what he does for Purebred Arabian racing and I am very fortunate to have his support personally. It is great this fellow has won again because he was a good second two weeks ago and deserved a change of luck and I am delighted for his connections.”

Trainer Abdallah Al Hammadi and his main patron Al Ajban Stables celebrated an Al Ain double on Friday and were back in the winner’s enclosure after the 1600m maiden for those foaled locally in which Salima Al Reef came out on top in a three-way battle over the final 100m. Stable companion and eventual third Rayqa led at this point before being passed by Ezz Al Rawasi who was then denied victory by Jesus Rosales and Salima Al Reef who was opening his account at the third attempt.

Rosales said: “That was my only ride tonight, so it is the perfect outcome in front of a big crowd. I had a very willing partner who battled hard.”