Abu Dhabi Racecourse hosts the opening fixture of the season on Sunday (tomorrow) evening with a six-race card including the concluding leg of HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies’ World Championship (IFAHR).
Also on the card are the inaugural HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak EARS Apprentice Jockey Race and the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Prestige Cup.
The last named, run over 1,600m, has attracted a stellar maximum field of 16. They include Seraphin Du Paon, winner of both HH The President’s Cup and the Dubai Kahayla Classic in 2011. Now trained by Ernst Oertel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he will be ridden for the first time by Tadhg O’Shea who said: “Obviously he is a quality horse but we have not fared well in the draw and the trip his absolute minimum. He has some big targets down the line but we know he goes well fresh and I am looking forward to it.”
His 15 opponents are headed by Sahib Du Clos, a revelation last season for trainer Saifaldin Deeb, who saddled him to win the National Day Cup as well as the first two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge.
His jockey, Daragh O’Donohoe, was looking forward to the outing. “He had a great season last time and I am told is in good form. He is a really nice spare ride,” said O’Donohoe.
Albar Lotois won this race last year, having also won first time out in 2010, and defends his crown for Eric Lemartinel and Gerald Avranche who said: “He goes very well fresh and is in good form but this looks a strong renewal.”
The Doug Watson-trained Quite A Show, Areem for Majed Al Jahouri and Mestor, representing champion trainer, Ali Rashid Al Raihe, look the best of the rest.
Lemartinel also saddled Naseem Al Reef to win on this card last year and he is back to defend his title in the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies’ World Championship (IFAHR). This year he has a new jockey in the shape of Tjarda Van Den Broek Humphreij.
Al Raihe’s apprentice, Saeed Al Mazrooei, is hoping local knowledge aids his quest to win the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak EARS Apprentice Jockey Race and rides Jameel W’Rsan for Jaci Wickham.
“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. “However, much will depend on the horse I ride and I have no idea of it until I get the instructions from the trainer.
“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 a cracking 1,600m handicap and Harry Bentley, fresh from a treble at Meydan on Thursday, rides last year’s winner, Mutual Force for Al Raihe.
It will be tough to defend his crown though with the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Maath Gool and Devdas, trained locally by Ernst Oertel for H E Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, heading a plethora of dangers.
The first race goes to post at 5pm, visit www.emiratesracing.com for the full race card.