Marathon Regulars Clash Again In Final Leg

Racing in the Garden City on Saturday features the Final Leg Of The Al Ain Marathon Series, a 5100m handicap with Prestige status in which Balad Al Reef is seeking a fourth victory having landed the prize in 2016, 2017 and again two years ago.

He is trained by Abdalla Al Hammadi, as was last year’s victor Octave, so the Al Ajban Stables handler has actually provided all bar two winners of the race, which was first contested in 2015.

Szczepan Mazur, in the saddle for Balad Al Reef’s 2019 success, is again aboard the 10-year-old with Bernardo Pinheiro partnering stable companion Hareer Al Reef, a two years younger full-brother to Mazur’s mount and runner-up in this race in each of the last two seasons.

Al Hammadi said: “Both our runners stay well and seem to enjoy these stamina tests and the Al Ain surface. They go there in good form and should run well but Ajjaj is a tough stayer also.”

Trained on the Al Ain track by Jean de Roualle for Yas Racing, Ajjaj won this 5100m concluding leg in 2018 and arrives here having already landed the first two rounds this year, handicaps over 3200m and 4100m. He and Richard Mullen bid to complete the clean sweep.

De Roualle said: “Ajjaj has been back to his best this season which is great to see and he has broken the track record in both the first two rounds.

Obviously he stays well but he is pretty versatile also; he actually held the 1400m Al Ain track record after he won his maiden back in 2015.”

Eric Lemartinel is seeking to become just the fourth trainer to saddle the winner of this 5100m marathon and RB Grynade, third to Ajjaj in the first round and runner-up to the same rival in the second, appears his main hope under Fabrice Veron. He was, however, only a distant third in this last year when never threatening the main protagonists.

With only six runners, the highlight is likely to prove tactical which will likely best suit Ajjaj who, as mentioned, did have the pace to win well over 1400m as a younger horse.

Away from the feature, the only Thoroughbred contest is a 1600m maiden with a capacity field of 15 set to go to post. Satish Seemar saddles both Lake Causeway, seemingly the choice of Mullen, and Zero To A Hundred who has the assistance of Tadhg O’Shea.

The Seemar duo would both appear to hold leading claims, as does Welcome Surprise for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi and Sun Cuisine for Ahmad bin Harmash.
However, the one to beat could be Martial Art, a 5-year-old gelded son of Jimmy Creed who has clearly had his issues as he has not been seen in public since finishing second, as a juvenile, on his debut at Meydan over 1600m.

Saddled then by Doug Watson, he is now with Salem bin Ghadayer and will be having just his second start, returning from an absence of 863 days. Royston Ffrench rides, one of just two mounts on the card for the jockey who is seeking a third Thoroughbred success at Al Ain this season on his sixth mount.