Harrab And Pinheiro Clinch Al Ain Feature On Final Card of UAE 2020/21 Season As Watson Crowned Champion Trainer

Having staged the very first meeting of the season back in October, Al Ain also hosted the final fixture of the campaign when Friday evening’s card was highlighted by the inaugural running of the Al Ain Cup, ultimately won comfortably Harrab.

The very final race of the UAE season, the featured 2000m conditions contest was contested by a select field of six and AF Sanad, a winner at Abu Dhabi as recently as Abu Dhabi just six days ago, made a gallant bid to make every post a winning one. Halfway up the straight he had four of his rivals toiling but Bernardo Pinheiro, sporting the striking green and yellow checked silks of Al Wathba Racing, was making steady inroads into his advantage.

Passing the 200m pole it was evident that Pinheiro was timing his challenge to perfection, the pair sweeping past the battling AF Sanad with about 80m remaining to win with, seemingly, plenty left up his sleeve.

Trained by Majed Al Jahoori, the homebred 6-year-old entire was having only his second dirt outing and was taking a massive drop in class having been campaigned in Group One company in six of his previous eight outings.

This was just a second career success, adding to the 2200m Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown R2 he won on the Abu Dhabi turf in March 2019 when saddled by Mohamed Ali.

Pinheiro said: “He has done that very nicely and, on ratings, was entitled to at least run a big race which is what he has done. The leader skipped clear early in the straight but I always thought I had him in my sights and my horse picked up well. It is the perfect end to what has been a very good season for me.”

For horses in private ownership, the opening 1600m handicap was won in fairly decisive fashion by RB Kings Bay, ridden by Omani apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi for owners Byerley Racing and handler Helal Al Alawi who trains locally.

Previously a maiden after six starts, the 4-year-old colt did have a runners-up and two third placings to his name and actually won this in good style having been settled just behind the leaders in the early half of the race.

Asked to challenge just after halfway, he hit the front passing the 600m pole and never looked in any realistic danger afterwards.

Restricted to 4-year-olds, a 1600m maiden was dominated by AF Ensito who was soon in front under Fernando Jara, skipped clear early in the straight and never appeared likely to be caught.

Saddled by Mohamed Daggash for Ahmed Mohd Saif Murshed Al Marar, the 4-year-old colt was opening his account at the fourth attempt and was actually showing his first clear sign of real ability.

The ever formidable trio of Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, his retained jockey Tadhg O’Shea and main trainer, Ernst Oertel combined to land the 1400m maiden for fillies and mares with AF Sourouh who was making it ‘third time lucky’.

Homebred, the 5-year-old mate only made her debut in the middle of December when showing good early speed over 1700m at Sharjah before fading. She followed that with a third, albeit a distant one, behind an easy winner over this 1400m course and distance here at Al Ain.

Oertel said: “She ran a very good race when third last time so we came here very hopeful and expecting a big run. We gave her plenty o time since her last race to freshen her up and she is only going to improve; that was just her third run and she has improved with each one. We are hoping she is going to be a nice filly over the next year or so.”

The only Thoroughbred race on the card was a 2000m handicap and O’Shea completed a double with the emphatic success of Dubai Canal for trainer Satish Seemar and owner Ailan Hamad Kadfoor Al Mehairi.

O’Shea settled the 5-year-old Nayef entire in fourth before asking him to close on the trio in front of him as they entered the long Al Ain straight. Soon there was only Zucchini to get past and they managed that, seemingly almost effortlessly, with about 75m remaining, the pair defying top weight in good style.

Only raced in the UAE, the winner was doubling his career tally having previously won a 1600m maiden on the Abu Dhabi turf last January. This first dirt success was registered at the sixth attempt and he arrived here after a close second, over 1400m, on his Al Ain debut.

O’Shea said: “He ran very well here the last day and would likely have won over another 50m. We always though this 2000m here on a flat track would really suit him and it has.

“It has been a great season and it is obviously nice to sign off with a double, who knows, it could yet be a treble!”

The 1800m maiden, like the majority of races on the card contested by a capacity field of 15, was turned into a procession by Baaher who was either in front or placed second pretty much throughout the entire contest under Fabrice Veron, sporting the silks of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for Eric Lemartinel.

The pair certainly turned for home in front and soon skipped clear with the race in safekeeping from at least 300m out, the homebred 4-year-old colt registering this initial success at the eight attempt. His best previous effort, on his penultimate start, was when second over 2000m in a maiden here at Al Ain.

Lemartinel said: “We were quite hopeful because we know he likes it here at Al Ain and he has done that very nicely. He ran here just last Friday but was in good form at home after that so we were happy to bring him back quickly and it worked out very well.”

Owner and trainer were immediately celebrating a double, combining with Antonio Fresu who produced Mootahady to grab a thrilling last gasp victory in the following 2000m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE.

Seemingly struggling in midfield, in a field of 15 that was always well strung out, at halfway, Fresu’s mount made stealthy, then relentless, progress throughout the final 500m but still appeared to face a stiff task with Jara looking likely complete doubles for himself and Daggash aboard AF Fakhama.

However, in the final 100m, Jara’s mount was either tiring or getting lonely and had no answer to the late lunge of Mootahady, another homebred 4-year-old, this time a colt who was having his seventh start. His best previous effort was a close second in a 1200m maiden on the Abu Dhabi turf, his fourth start, in January.

Lemartinel said: “Like the previous winner we were quite hopeful of a good run because both his previous Al Ain outings were promising runs, including when fourth just last week.

“Like Baaher, he came out of that race fine and we were happy to come back. Both are nice young horses and hopefully have a bright future.”

Tadhg O’Shea and Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda had long been confirmed as UAE Champion Jockey and Champion Owner respectively, but it was only after race five that Doug Watson was confirmed as Champion Trainer after an epic battle with Ernst Oertel.