Ladies’ Championship headlines Abu Dhabi opener

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Abu Dhabi: The concluding leg of the HH Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies’ World Championship (IFAHR) is the feature race at the opening fixture of the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club’s flat racing season on Sunday.

Twelve women jockeys, including the UAE’s Shathra Al Hajjaj, will compete in the 1,600m race — the 10th round of the Purebred Arabian series that is part of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival. The race has attracted some of the best amateur female riders from around the world, two of whom will drive home in brand new Mercedes Benz cars, in addition to the Dh130,000 purse awaiting the winner of the race. Among the riders are winners of the previous nine rounds of the competition.

The exciting six-race card also includes the Dh150,000 Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Prestige Cup and the inaugural running of the HH Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak EARS Apprentice Jockey Race, also for Purebred Arabians

The Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Prestige Cup has attracted a classy field of 16 runners led by Seraphin Du Paon, winner of both HH The President’s Cup and the Dubai Kahayla Classic in 2011.
Trained by Ernst Oertel for His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, he will be ridden for the first time by Tadhg O’Shea.

“Obviously he is a quality horse but we have not fared well in the draw and the trip is his absolute minimum,” said the reigning UAE champion jockey.

“He has some big targets down the line but we know he goes well fresh and I am looking forward to it.”

Seraphin Du Paon’s main threat appears to be Sahib Du Clos, who trainer Saifaldin Deeb sent out to win the National Day Cup as well as the first two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge.
He also has a new partner in Daragh O’Donohoe who commented: “He had a great season last time and I am told is in good form. He is a really nice spare ride.

Among the other stars in the race are Eric Lemartinel’s Albar Lotois who won this race last year and the Doug Watson-trained Quite A Show.

Gerald Avranche who renews his association with Albar Lotois said: “He goes very well fresh and is in good form but this looks a strong renewal.”

Champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe’s retained apprentice Saeed Al Mazroui believes that the HH Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak EARS Apprentice Jockey Race will come down to the last two furlongs.
“I know the Abu Dhabi course well and the gate six draw is the perfect place to be over the 1,600m trip and should allow me to get in a good early position, hopefully in the middle,” he said. “Usually these apprentice races are run at a fast pace with a lot of speed in the early part of the race. I think the race will be decided in the last 400m and I am really looking forward to it.”

The only thoroughbred race on the card is the Al Musrif handicap which has attracted a maximum field of 16 runners led by last year’s winner, Mutual Force’s Musabah Al Muhairi Maath Gool and Ernst Oertel’s Devdas also hold strong claims.