29 December 2018

Mystique Moon Sets Sun On 2018 At Sharjah

Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club (SERC) staged the final UAE race meeting of 2018 on Saturday afternoon, highlighted by the second running of the AED 200,000 HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup over 1700m. The lone Thoroughbred contest (handicap) on the six-race card was dominated by trainer Doug Watson, whose pair of pupils—Pillar of Society and Mystique Moon—had the race between themselves throughout the final 250m.

The former, the choice of stable jockey Pat Dobbs, was well away from stall one and sent straight to the lead, while Sam Hitchcott settled the eventual winner in third on the rail, tracking his stable companion. Both jockeys were sat motionless until entering the 300m straight, when Hitchcott asked his mount to challenge and overpower his yard-mate en route to a well-deserved victory. Twice a winner on the all-weather in Britain for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby, the 4-year-old gelded son of Kyllachy now sports the colours of Mohd Khalifa Al Basti. It was the middle leg of a treble for Hitchcott who, like Dobbs, is based with Watson.

“Doug and the team at Red Stables have the horses in great form and we thought we had two good chances,” Hitchcott said. “It was a bit tight on the rail for a moment, but once in the clear, he picked up nicely and that was a good performance in a decent race.”

The inaugural HH The Crown Prince of Sharjah Cup (Prestige), a 1200m sprint, looked a straightforward opportunity on paper for ES Ajeeb and so it proved. Under Hitchcott, the Purebred Arabian’s success was never in doubt with a much-the-best victory. A homebred of Sheikh Abdulla bin Majid Al Qassemi, SERC chairman, the 4-year-old is trained on the track by Ibrahim Aseel, thus providing an ideal end to the year at their local course with the winner very well received and given a memorable reception.

Hitchcott said: “He has so much speed for an Arabian and is a very good sprinter on a dirt surface, particularly. Sadly, there are few options for him, so this race was a welcome new addition, especially on his home track.”

Earlier, fifteen contested a 1200m maiden, but very few were ever able to get involved and Ziad Galadari’s Ashton Tourettes proved far too good for the remainder, running out a very easy winner for Hitchcott and Aseel.

“He showed plenty of pace at Al Ain, so we were hopeful the shorter trip would suit him,” Aseel said. “I am delighted to have a winner for Mr Galadari, who has very kindly sent us a few nice horses this season. Hopefully, this horse can build on this now he has that first victory and with the extra experience.”

A 2000m conditions contest produced a dramatic conclusion with the lead twice changing hands in the final 100m. Jockey Richard Mullen and AF Taraha had taken up the running fully 1000m from home and had most of their rivals beaten when leaving the back straight. However, Royston Ffrench and Inayat W’Rsan had made smooth progress to stalk them into the bend, while Hareer Al Reef started to make relentless headway under Gerald Avranche.

Ultimately, Al Ajban Stables’ Abdalla Al Hammadi-trained Hareer Al Reef’s rally proved too powerful for all.

“He ran very well when staying on over 1600m at Jebel Ali two weeks ago,” Al Hammadi said. “We were very hopeful the return to 2000m would help him and he stays the trip well.”

Connections wasted no time completing a double, combining to land the following 1700m maiden with Kanz Al Reef, who overcame a tardy break under Avranche to sweep to the front at the top of the short straight; never looking in any danger of defeat.

“We were pretty confident Hareer Al Reef would run well back over 2000m and he stayed on strongly,” Avranche said. “Abdallah and his team have the horses in good form, which bodes well for 2019.”

The opening 1200m handicap was won in determined fashion by AZ Dhabyan, who was always prominent under apprentice Adam McLean before the pair committed for home 300m out. McLean, riding his first winner of the season, found he had a willing partner and they stayed on well to win well for owner-trainer Saleha Al Ghurair.

“He had finished second on the Abu Dhabi turf in the past and has shown plenty of speed today,” McLean said. “I was always travelling strongly and once in front he was not stopping; running strongly to the line. It is great to finish 2018 with a winner and I am obviously grateful for this winning opportunity.”