Opening round of Marathon Series highlights Al Ain’s Sunday card

Racing in Al Ain on Sunday is highlighted by the First Leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a 3200m handicap for which eight have been declared including a quartet for Abdallah Al Hammadi and Al Ajban Stables.

Of the four, Pat Cosgrave rides top weight and 11yo Balad Al Reef, a regular in these contests but without a win since landing the 4100m in the second round of the series in February 2020.

He did appear in good heart though on his one appearance this season, staying on well over an inadequate 1700m at Sharjah at the beginning of December.

For the same connections, Richard Mullen partners Hareer Al Reef, another often campaigned in these Al Ain marathon races. He won this opening round in 2019 and was scoring for the first time since when landing the final leg, a 5100m prestige handicap, last March.

Octave, who won the 5100m third round in 2020, and Whistle, the mounts of Sam Hitchcott and Jesus Rosales respectively, complete the Al Hammadi team in the opening race of a series he likes to target.

Al Hammadi said: “We obviously have a good record in these races and hope to maintain that. All four of ours stay well and should run good races.”

Of the remaining four, the Majed Al Jahoori-trained Rajee looks the main danger under Bernardo Pinheiro.

Homebred by Yas Racing, the 5yo entire is a dual 1800m here in Al Ain so the surface certainly suits him but he does need to prove his stamina having been well beaten four times over 2000m, the longest trip he has tackled thus far.

His stable companion Sufyan benefits from the apprentice claim of Saif Al Balushi and did win this race two years ago, chased home by Hareer Al Reef, when trained by Ana Mendez. The 7yo entire then finished runner-up behind Balad Al Reef in the 4100m second round but has not sparkled since.

That said, he did miss the whole of last season but has not shown much in four outings thus far this season.

The best of the other action appears to be a 1400m handicap in which AF Ramz will seek to defy top weight following his victory in a 2000m conditions race on this course just last week.

Owned and trained by Khalifa Al Neyadi, the 8yo entire will be partnered by Omani apprentice Saif Al Balushi who was due to ride him last week but became unavailable so was replaced by fellow claiming rider Sean Kirrane.

The homebred AF Alajaj, for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, Ernst Oertel and Tadhg O’Shea, has won four of his seven starts and looks a big danger to all.

Three of his wins were on the Abu Dhabi turf but he did score in a handicap over this course and distance last February and was runner-up behind AF Ramz in a 1600m handicap here in December.

O’Shea said: “He is proven at Al Ain which is always a bonus and has been in good form at home. Hopefully he can at least go close in a competitive race.”