19 November 2015

Al Ain Gets Season Underway With Friday Meeting

Manuel Seeks First-up Win With Ain Jaloot

On Friday, Al Ain becomes the fifth and final UAE racecourse to stage their first meeting of the new season, with a seven race card featuring a 1600m handicap.

Tony Manuel saddles his first runner from his new base at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and will be hoping to make a flying start in the day’s big race with Ain Jaloot.

A revelation last season when trained by Eric Lemartinel, Manuel’s new charge raced 11 times, winning on six occasions.

His run of success actually included five consecutive victories between December and March. His final win, after his only defeat of 2015, was achieved on the dirt at Al Ain so the surface is not an issue.

However, it was over 1000m and he has yet to win over 1600m, finishing second on both his attempts at the trip.

He also has the welter burden of 60kgs to overcome and is conceding weight to all his seven rivals.

Gerald Avranche, in the saddle for all bar one of his starts last season (Wayne Smith was aboard for the Al Ain victory) is back on board.

“He obviously did very well last season,” said Avranche, who will be visiting from his base in Qatar. “He just kept finding more and more with his racing.

“I am really looking forward to getting back on him and hopefully he is going to run a big race.”

Lemartinel has taken over the reins at the powerful Al Asayl Stables, predominantly for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

They have two runners among the eight declared with stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, aboard Sheikh Down and Richard Mullen picking up a plum spare ride on stable companion, Madjanthat.

Both have won at Al Ain; Sheikh Down over the marathon trip of 3200m and was also third to Madjanthat, over this 1600m, last January.

That remains his only previous dirt outing and, perhaps just importantly, was the only time Mullen has ridden him.

Nacir Samiri is a first season trainer who enjoyed an Abu Dhabi double last Sunday. He relies on Haajeb, the mount of Pat Dobbs.

Trained by Erwan Charpy, for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Tatweer was considered good enough to make his dirt debut in last season’s Group 1 concluding round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.

He has actually been well beaten in all four local starts but is with a top trainer and would not be the first horse to show marked improvement during their second UAE season.

The owner’s retained jockey, Dane O’Neill, takes the ride.

The only Thoroughbred race, the opening 1800m maiden, has attracted the maximum field of 15 with an intriguing mix of unexposed types and horses who have already shown their hand.

Of the later category, the Ismail Mohammed-trained Arabian Skies merits plenty of respect with Dobbs the beneficiary of stable jockey, Wayne Smith’s, suspension.

He has had seven career starts, six in the UAE but has at least finished second on a dirt surface and has seemingly been found a good opportunity.

Satish Seemar and Richard Mullen are always a respected combination and their representative, Earth Tour, merits a second glance although his best form was achieved on the all-weather at Meydan.

Stable apprentice, Hector Crouch, rides Seemar’s Piepowder Court, pulled-up on his sole career start, here at Al Ain, in January, while Sam Hitchcott rides Wise Thoughts, a third runner for the yard.

The Ahmad bin Harmash pair of Salvadori and Rich And Righteous have only had five previous outings between them.

Stable jockey, Freddie Tylicki, elects to ride the former, having his fourth start, all locally, where as UAE debutant Rich And Righteous ran twice, on turf, in France.

Musabah Al Muhairi introduces two newcomers, in the shape of Dubai Post and O’Connell Street, stable jockey Fernado Jara choosing the latter with Royston Ffrench on the former.

Neither would need to be world beaters to feature in a very winnable race.