Pat Buckley, clerk of the course and racing secretary, is looking forward to the opening day. “It has been a few years since we had the opening meeting here at Abu Dhabi and it will be great to kick the season off. We have a really good card with some top lady riders in the featured Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies’ IFAHR Cup.
“That is the final race, following a top quality Prestige Stakes for the Purebred Arabians, with several genuine Group 1 runners in it. That is part of the Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup series, while the Thoroughbred race looks very competitive as well, and it will be great to see the likes of Jamie Spencer and Michael Hills back in Abu Dhabi. We have plenty of entertainment organised and are hoping for a good crowd and an enjoyable meeting.”
Twelve are set to go to post for the Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies’ IFAHR Cup, a conditions race over 1600m with female jockeys representing 12 different countries, including the UAE’s Shathra Al Hajjaj, Oman’s Fatma Al Manji and Qatar’s Khadija Albastaki. They are joined by some very experienced riders from Europe and the USA.
Al Hajjah rides Baher for Eric Lemartinel and the pair should go close with Jazeerat Alsadyaat, the mount of Italy’s Elisabetta Marcialis, looking a big danger for trainer Ernst Oertel.
South African Oertel is the new trainer at Al Asayl Stables and has five runners on the evening, including Time Out and Frysk Me Now in the Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Prestige Cup, also over 1600m.
The trainer said: “This is an exciting new challenge and I am looking forward to the season ahead. Jazeerat Alsadyaat will hopefully run well, while Frysk Me Now and Time Out are going well but that looks a very hot race. Alawal Walakeer may be our best chance in the second race, the fillies’ maiden.”
Champion Jockey Wayne Smith has three rides on the card and said: “Aberfledy’s race is a Group 1 in all bar name and he looks to face a stiff task. In the Thoroughbred race Bin Shamardal will appreciate the return to turf and has been in decent form at home but I would be hopeful rather than confident.”
Champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe has three runners in that Thoroughbred contest, a 1600m handicap, with stable jockey Royston Ffrench partnering Ramadi and Tadhg O’Shea on Musleh for his main employer, Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance.
Assistant trainer Jilani Siddiqui said: “All three of ours are working well and it will be interesting to get them on the track. They are our only runners as we do not have many Purebred Arabians now. Of the three I would perhaps expect most from Musleh but there is little between the trio.”