16 January 2016

Dagon digs deep as marathon stretches

DIG DAGON boosted the rich vein of form that the UAE’s reigning champion jockey Richard Mullen has celebrated over the local weekend by grinding out a hard fought victory in the featured Round 2 of the Al Ain Marathon Series for Purebred Arabians (3200m) at Al Ain Racecourse on Friday evening.

The Englishman, a long time fixture at Dubai’s Zabeel Stables and fresh from a treble at Meydan, including the meetings two Black Type races on the previous evening’s card, was taking an outside ride for Al Ajban Stables and trainer Abdallah Al Hammadi.

Mullen had the eight- year-old positioned in midfield throughout the first half of the race before closing-up behind the leaders at the end of the back straight.

Poised behind the pace turning for home Dig Dagon delivered his challenge halfway up the straight, reaching the lead 300 metres from the judge and holding off the determined late bid of Haanoof, winner of the first round over 600 metres shorter three weeks earlier.

“It has been a great couple of days,” said Mullen. “We thought this fellow would appreciate this kind of trip today and he was able to keep in touch throughout.

“He has had a tendency of being slowly away and running on late in his races so the stamina test has really proved ideal.”

The preceding race, the Ajman Handicap (1600m) produced one of the best finishes seen at the nations’s newest racecourse.

Entering the final 200m Da’Areen, ridden by apprentice Hector Crouch, led with RB Inferno chasing hard under the urgings of this season’s Jockeys’ Championship leader Tadhg O’Shea. Behind them emerging from the pack was local debutant Jabal Aly, being wound into a powerful closing effort by jockey Paul Hanagan.

As the finishing line loomed it appeared RB Inferno and O’Shea were just going to deny Da’Areen, only for Jabal Aly to stick his head out and overcome them both in the shadows of the winning post.

The gelding had formerly been trained in the United Kingdom until his owner-breeder HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum decided on a transfer to Dubai amd Meydan’s Green Stables under the care of trainer Erwan Charpy.

“He was very consistent in England,” said the Frenchman. “We were very pleased to get him in the yard and he is a nice new recruit for us.

“He is not a horse who wants to hit the front too soon so I told Paul to produce him late and he certainly did!

“We will have a look at the opportunities open to him and it would be nice to think he could progress to some of the big races at some stage.”

Jabal Aly will have more than one arrow in his quiver having previously also scored on both turf and all-weather surfaces.

Though out of luck there, O’Shea had earlier added to his seasonal score when Men Alemarat ran out an easy winner of the Al Sharjah Maiden (2000m).

It was the third UAE outing for the Eric Lemartinel-trained four-year-old who had finished third on the Abu Dhabi turf at his two previous starts, but may well have signaled dirt is where he likes it best when posting a nine-and-a-half-lengths winning margin.

“He has always worked nicely on dirt,” said O’Shea. “So we were pretty hopeful of a good run and he did that in good style.

“He is a decent young horse.”

Lemartinel posted a double when Mahbooba made a successful racecourse debut in the Ras Al Khaimah Maiden (1600) restricted to fillies and mares.

The French-bred four-year-old led from just after halfway and broadcast a willing attitude, galloping relentlessly down the long straight to present an eighth win of the season to the trainer’s French compatriot, jockey Gerald Avranche.

“We were quite hopeful,” said Avranche. “I was always pretty happy and she will stay further so I was happy to commit a long way out.”

Irish jockey Chris Hayes, riding in his first season for Jebel Ali-trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam, certainly appears to have discovered the key to Lanadam, who saluted at the track for the second time in the space of a week.

Landing the Dubai Handicap (1600m), the meeting’s solo Thoroughbred contest, marked the combination’s third victory of the campaign.

It was hard work though, only leading close home after catching Matador De Toros, who had taken over from perennial place-getter Fa’Iz with less than 300 metres to run.

“He has won over 1400 at Jebel Ali, 1800 here at Al Ain and now over the 1600,” said Hayes. “He is pretty versatile and you could go back to the 1400 or even up to 2000.

“He just needs plenty of cover in his races and has to be delivered late.”

National Stables trainer Helal Al Alawi, who pays regular visits to the Al Ain Winner’s Circle, took his season’s tally to 12 when Al Waqqad, posted a comfortable victory in the Umm Al Quwain Handicap (2000m).

It was a landmark too for Dubai’s Oasis Stables-apprentice George Buckell whose win total for the season-to-date reached double figures.

Despite having to contend with a wide draw Buckell was content to track the leaders without finding cover and after swinging into the straight sent the eight-year-old for home, finally crossing the line more than seven lengths clear.

“From that kind of draw you just have to keep things simple,” Buckell explained. “He has really run all the way to the line and won comfortably.

“The season has been going well.”

The meeting opened with a close result when Tha’er prevailed in a driving finish to deny AF Mukhadhram in the night’s edition of the Al Wathba Stud Farm Cup (1400m), presenting owner-trainer Saeed Hadher Al Mazrouei with his second win of the season.

“It was certainly close at the line,” said winning jockey Freddie Tylicki. “I was always travelling quite nicely just behind the leader but was keen to challenge as late as possible.

“We passed the runner-up well inside the final furlong but he fought back gamely. Luckily, we just held on.”