08 January 2022

Kirrane treble highlighted by Al Ain feature race success

Saturday’s first Al Ain fixture of 2022 was highlighted by a good quality 2000m conditions stakes and it produced a thrilling finish with AF Ramz just holding off the renewed challenge of Asif having passed that rival with about 450m remaining.

Owned and trained by Khalifa Al Neyadi, the 8yo entire was locked in battle much throughout with the eventual runner-up before being sent for home inside the final 500m by Sean Kirrane.

They went clear briefly but Asif responded gamely to the urgings of Abdul Aziz Al Balushi and almost snatched victory.

For AF Ramz, it was his sixth career victory and second this season having won his penultimate outing, a 1600m handicap here at Al Ain.

He was completing a double for the trainer and treble for his apprentice jockey, remarkably all on spare rides that has been scheduled to be partnered by fellow allowance claiming jockey Saif Al Balushi.

Kirrane said: “It has been an amazing evening and I have been very lucky to get on some nice horses and can only thank the owners and trainers for the opportunities.

“Obviously it is a shame for Saif Al Balushi but it has worked out luckily for me.”

Restricted to 4yos in private ownership, the opening 1400m maiden attracted a capacity field of 15 but only two mattered from just after halfway when the race developed into a duel between early leader Megtah Albahar and Yas Xmensor.

The latter hit the front about 375m out but had to battle to see off Megtah Albahar which he did finally manage in the final 50m.

The colt was opening his account at the fourth time of asking and is trained by Khalifa Al Neyadi for Mohammed Abdlhamid Abdullatif Taha. It turned out to be a winning spare ride for Kirrane who replaced Al Balushi who had originally been booked to take the ride.

The 1800m handicap looked competitive on paper but, as it transpired, turned out to be a pretty straightforward task for Pharitz Oubai who proved far too god for his 14 opponents, most of whom were struggling a long way out.

Saddled by Ibrahim Al Hadhrami, he was confidently ridden by apprentice Kirrane, completing a double and again deputising for the unfortunate Saif Al Balushi. Settled in about fourth, Kirrane eased closer leaving the home turn, biding his time before committing for home entering the final 250m. They soon had the race in safekeeping.

A 7yo gelding owned by HE Al Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Nasser Al Hashar, he was registering a second career success having also landed a handicap over this 1800m Al Ain course and distance last March.

For horses foaled in the UAE, a 1600m handicap also was contested by a full field of 15 and Dane O’Neill produced Arim W’Rsan to lead close home to land the spoils for Jaci Wickham and Sheikh Hazza bin Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Having just his sixth career start, he was doubling his winning tally having, on his previous outing, landed a 1400m Jebel Ali maiden.

In rear throughout the early part of the race, the 6yo entire made smooth progress throughout the duration of the straight before leading in the final 30m.

Wickham said: “He was stepping up from a maiden win and it is never easy for inexperienced horses to do that so I am delighted with him. Dane said he was still green so hopefully he is going to improve on this.

‘It is also nice to know that he likes it here in Al Ain which opens up more options. He was actually my first Al Ain runner this season so it is nice to have the winner.”

A maiden over 1800m was turned into a procession by Kalifano De Ghazal under a positive ride from Abdul Aziz Al Balushi who, despite being drawn widest of all, was soon able to grab the initiative and an early lead.

It was apparent early in the straight that it was not a lead they were ever likely to relinquish with the pair finally crossing the line in splendid isolation, winning emphatically for trainer Helal Alalawi and the National Stables from where he trains, in Al Ain.

A 4yo colt he was having just his sixth career start and second locally having finished second on his first UAE outing, also at Al Ain, in a 1600m maiden, five weeks ago.

Alalawi said: “We were very hopeful coming here because he ran so well first time and we thought the extra distance would suit him.”

Also over 1800m, a conditions race provided Oxford the perfect opportunity to follow up his course and distance maiden success of a month ago, a victory for which he was penalised and forced to concede weight to his nine rivals.

Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, the 5yo entire has now won twice after nine starts and had to work hard here having slightly missed the break.

He started to creep into contention as the leaders entered the straight before quickening between rivals about 300m out. Soon then in front, he stayed on strongly to win snugly.

Mullen said: “He won well here last time but, on ratings, he faced a stiff task so that was a very good effort and a brave, batting one as he was a bit tight for room 300m out.”

The finale and only Thoroughbred contest on the card, a 2000m handicap, was won by Sea Skimmer, trained on the Al Ain track by Kareem Ramadan for his father Mohammed who used to train the 8yo gelded son of Dubawi. This sixth start of the campaign was his second for his current handler.

It was the younger Ramadan’s second ever winner and first this season with just his fourth runner. The gelding was posting his third career success having won his first two local outings, in the winter of 2017, for Helal Alalawi.

It was a first UAE winner for jockey Gabriel Malune in his debut season locally.