Course And Distance Specialist Ghazwan Al Khalediah Lands Al Ai Sprint Feature

Racing at Al Ain on Friday evening was highlighted by the 1000m Al Ain Sprint, the final of the seven races on the card and won in dominant fashion by Ghazwan Al Khalediah who was probably never headed in a ‘quality over quantity’ contest.

Carrying Prestige status, only four went to post, but they were a quality quartet although, as it transpired, only eventual third, Rawaa, was ever really on terms with the winner, the mare chasing him hard until tiring in the final 100m allowing MH Rahal, last of the four throughout most of the race, to snatch second in the final strides.

Partnered on this occasion by apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi, the winner is trained locally by Helal Al Alawi for Abu Dhabi Racing. This was a fifth career win, from just 13 starts, for the 9-year-old entire who only made his belated debut, a winning one, in November 2018. That was over 1400m, here at Al Ain and he has now registered all five career victories at his local track, four over this 1000m. On this occasion he was gaining revenge on Rawaa who beat him, over course and distance, on his previous start 41 days ago.

Al Alawi said: “We always though a lot of this horse and were very patient with him when we first bought him over from Saudi Arabia.

“He does seem to love this Al Ain track and has now won four times over this 1000m course and distance.”

For horses in private ownership, the opening 1400m handicap, like so many such races, went to a horse homebred by Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, partnered by his retained jockey Tadhg O’Shea and saddled by Ernst Oertel. On this occasion it was AF Arrab who delivered the goods with a smooth success, a third for the 6-year-old entire and second on dirt, having also won a 1700m Sharjah maiden and 1600m handicap on the Abu Dhabi turf. Having settled in third in the first half of the race, O’Shea was in the perfect place to pounce in the straight, taking his mount to the front 300m out after which victory was never in doubt.

Oertel said: “He is just a nice, tough, genuine horse who always runs a good race and, as I keep saying, I am just so lucky to have all these nice Al Nabooda horses.

“This 1400m is perhaps his perfect distance although 1600m is ok, but 1200m is not far enough and 2000m is too far. The 1400m here at Al Ain is ideal because it is a tough one stamina wise so the fact he stays that extra 200m is a big bonus.”

Connections later doubled up when AF Sultan, originally the second reserve, was probably never headed in a 1000m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE.

Having his fifth start, the homebred 6-year-old was second, over 1400m, on his only previous Al Ain appearance last March. This was just his second appearance of the current campaign.

Oertel said: “We were very pleased when he made the final field and were very hopeful of a big run as we think he could be a nice sprinter. He certainly did not disappoint!”

O’Shea added: “He was second here last year, so we knew the track and surface was not an issue. I was a bit worried about 1000m, but Ernst and his team were confident and, as so often, have been proved correct.”

A 1400m handicap and only Thoroughbred race on the card provided the perfect opportunity for Far Sky to shed his maiden tag at the tenth attempt.

Trained by Doug Watson for Sky Racing, the 4-year-old gelded son of Stay Thirsty has only ever raced in the UAE and for the same connections. Runner-up on debut, as a juvenile, over 1600m at Meydan, he finished last season by occupying the same finishing position, on the same Meydan dirt surface, over 1200m on what was his fourth career appearance.

Subsequently gelded, he had twice finished runner-up this season at Jebel Ali over 1600m, including on his most recent appearance when chasing home Falsehood who was fourth on this occasion.

Ridden for the first time by Fabrice Veron, he was settled in midfield, hugging the rail to save ground, before being unleashed inside the final 275m after which the race was soon in safekeeping.

Watson said: “We have enjoyed a good Al Ain season, so it is nice to add another winner and I am delighted for the owners and everybody connected with this horse that we have managed to get a win.”

The capacity field of 15 contested the 2000m maiden, but 14 may as well have stayed at home with Ozone Layer and Richard Mullen turning the race into a procession for trainer Abdallah Al Hammadi and his main patron, Al Ajban Stables. Settled just behind the early leaders, Mullen asked the 4-year-old colt to throw down his challenge at the top of the straight and, once in front with about 400m remaining, they just pulled further clear. It was a case of third time lucky for the winner after a promising debut in a 1600m Al Ain maiden before failing to land a blow, on the Abu Dhabi turf, in the 2200m UAE Arabian Derby.

Al Hammadi said: “He is a horse we have always liked and ran well first time and was not disgraced in the UAE Arabian Derby, but has clearly relished the return to dirt and that trip has really suited him. It is very pleasing.”

Owner and trainer immediately completed a 2000m course and distance double, this time combining with Szczepan Mazur who piloted Kesra to victory in the following handicap. Having settled his mount off the early speed, Mazur weaved through rivals in the long straight to make stealthy progress, the pair hitting the front 300m from home and staying on strongly for a smooth success.

A 5-year-old entire having his tenth start, he was doubling his winning tally having landed a course and distance maiden in February, the only previous occasion Mazur had ridden him.

Mazur said: “He impressed me when I won on him before which was a relatively smooth success, but today he has had to battle which is a very pleasing sign regarding his attitude.”

The diminutive AS Qoot then landed a 1600m maiden for fillies and mares, showing a battling attitude far greater than her stature to deny, what appeared alongside her, the giantess Sundus. The two 4-year-old fillies had the race between themselves throughout the final 200m with the former, once in front, refusing to relinquish the lead under apprentice Saif Al Balushi, sporting the silks of Sheikh Hamed bin Khadim bin Butti for trainer Mohammed Al Shansi who was doubling his seasonal tally.