Thoroughbreds Serve Up A Sharjah Thriller

The third meeting of the new UAE season, at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday afternoon, concluded with the only Thoroughbred contest on the card, a 1700m handicap, which provided a thriller. The lead changed thrice in the final 150m with Miniaturist ultimately snatching the prize.

Faith And Fortune led from the outset and stayed at the head of affairs under Connor Beasley until they had passed the 200m pole when Fernando Jara drove Naaeebb to the lead. However, in between those protagonists, Miniaturist challenged determinedly under Adrie de Vries. As Beasley’s mount waved a white flag, Naaeebb kept on dourly, but was unable to deny De Vries’ mount who stuck his head in front when it mattered. Jara and Naaeebb almost lost second to Wings Of Gold who fairly flew home to claim third.

The winner, a 7-year-old gelded son of Shamardal was saddled by Ahmed Al Shemaili for Saeed Musabbeh Al Mheiri and was doubling his career tally having previously won a 1400m Sandown maiden as a juvenile when trained in Britain by Mark Johnston. It was a chance winning ride for Dutchman De Vries, replacing Italian Antonio Fresu who sadly tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week and has to isolate for a fortnight.

De Vries said: “You have to feel sorry for Antonio, but the important thing is that he is fine and will be back. I had a very willing partner today who really fought to get his head in front to get me on the scoresheet for the season.”

Al Shemaili added: “That was an exciting finish and the jockey has given him a perfect ride. I am delighted.”

The opening 1200m maiden, as was the case at Al Ain on Thursday, was snared by the Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, Ernst Oertel and Tadhg O’Shea team, AF Sail emulating stable companion AF Nashrah with a smooth success. Never far off the speed, O’Shea eased his mount to the front fully 600m out after which the result was never in doubt, the homebred 4-year-old colt making it third time lucky after two 1400m Al Ain outings earlier this year. Second on the first occasion, he was then somewhat disappointing when sixth past the post, but promoted to fifth a month later.

Al Nabooda said: “It has been a good start to the new season and, as I have said many times, I have a great trainer and jockey behind me. This horse showed plenty of speed in his two starts last year and has benefitted from another summer on his back.”

A 1200m handicap for horses foaled in the UAE, was won quite stylishly by Atrash, confidently ridden by Pat Cosgrave in the colours of Yas Racing for Majed Al Jahoori. Racing virtually alone towards the nearside, Cosgrave’s mount was always travelling strongly and once let loose, shot clear just after halfway. They were never going to be caught, despite perhaps tiring in the final 50m, and the homebred 4-year-old gelding has now won half of his four starts, his previous success achieved in a 1000m Sharjah maiden on his second appearance in February.

Cosgrave said: “He has done that nicely and shown plenty of natural speed. He is a young horse who has not had much racing and should be capable of more improvement.”

Also for horses born locally, the 1000m maiden for 3-year-olds was dominated by Eric Lemartinel with a pair of horses he saddled for his main employer, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Zuhoor chased home by stable companion and fellow debutante Ashjaan. It was a first UAE winner for jockey Ryan Curatolo who settled the homebred filly just behind early leader Zayd before sweeping past that rival over 500m out, powering clear and staying on strongly to win comfortably.

Curatolo said: “Obviously I am delighted to have opened my account after a couple of seconds and it is great to do it in such famous silks for a major owner.”

A third contest restricted to UAE-breds, a 1700m handicap went the way of ES Nahawand who battled gamely to gain the initiative from early leader AF Mezmar early in the short straight. That rival responded gamely under apprentice Hugo Lebouc before crying enough in the closing stages, eventually losing second to Ma’Aaly who was finishing fast having been outpaced leaving the back straight. Saddled by Mohamed Daggash for Ahmed Mohd Saif Murshed Al Marar, the 8-year-old entire was recording a third career victory. He actually made a winning debut for Ibrahim Aseel, in December 2016, over 1200m here at Sharjah, but had to wait until this March and his penultimate outing to double that score, when he and Jara won a 2000m Al Ain handicap.

Daggash said: “It is very pleasing to get an early winner on the board. This horse is pretty versatile, though seems to prefer dirt and Fernando Jara gets on very well with him.”

Fifteen may have gone to post for a 2000m maiden, but only two ever really mattered with Richard Mullen immediately grabbing the initiative aboard Bassaam, stalked by Tadhg O’Shea and AF Ramz. And that is exactly how it remained throughout with O’Shea challenging strongly leaving the home turn, but his mount never really looked like getting past with Bassaam pulling away again in the final 100m. It was a second winner on the card for Yas Racing, this one prepared at Al Ain by Jean de Roualle and losing his maiden tag at the fifth attempt, fourth in the UAE. A homebred 5-year-old gelding, his best previous effort was when runner-up, under Mullen, in a 2000m Al Ain maiden on his penultimate start in February.

Mullen said: “He ran very well at Al Ain earlier this year and then put up a decent performance on the Abu Dhabi turf. He has had to dig deep here today because the runner-up was not going away and it was only close home I was confident of holding on.”