Saturday’s race meeting in Al Ain opened with the HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival’s Wathba Stallions Cup For Private Owners Only race run over 2000 metres for maiden horses.
Jockey Richard Mullen won fairly comprehensively on AF Al Mehleb in the Dh 80,000 race supported by the Festival. Tulum under Patrick Cosgrave finished second and AF Nafece ridden by Fresu was third.
Trained by Ernst Oertel, AF Al Mehleb finally opened his account in his tenth attempt. Homebred by Champion Owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah, he and Mullen were never far off the pace and, once the pair hit the way halfway up the long straight, they never looked like being denied.
“I was actually quite hopeful coming into the race which perhaps did not look the strongest,” said Mullen. “They gelded this horse having not shown much last season and his comeback last Sunday was a good one so I hoped he could build on that and he has. We actually travelled pretty well throughout the race and he has stayed this trip well and stamina is probably his forte.”
Faisal Al Rahmani, IFAHR chief and head of Al Ain racing and other officials gave away the trophies to the winning connections.
The meeting was highlighted by Round 1 of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a handicap over 2600m and which produced a titanic battle between Ajjaj, owned by HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy PM of the UAE and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Shamikh Al Wathba who had the race between themselves throughout the final 200m.
The former, who was under pressure a long way out under Mullen, just as he had been when winning on this course over 1800m eight days ago, hit the front early in the long straight and soon had most of their seven rivals in trouble.
The main exception was Shamikh Al Wathba who appeared to be travelling much the better under Antonio Fresu and the pair hit the front with just 100m left to run. That produced a telling response from Ajjaj who fought back to regain the initiative and was probably extending the regained lead as they crossed the line for a hard fought victory.
For the winner, it was a third career victory, all at Al Ain having also won a 1400m course maiden in March 2015. Winning trainer, Saifaldin Deeb said: “We were quite hopeful coming here as we thought the longer trip would suit him. He looked in trouble for a moment when passed but has then fought back well and won nicely.”
Mullen, sporting the green and yellow silks of HH Sheikh Mansoor, added: “I had to get after him quite a long way out but then he took me to the front nicely. He was probably just getting lonely in front because when the second went past he really fought back well. On this evidence, and that from last week he is going to stay further. He seems to be improving, especially as he steps up in distance.”
The HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival is sustained by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and coordinated by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, with National Feed and Flour Production and Marketing Co. LLC as associate sponsors, The National Archives as the official partner and Emirates airline as the official carriers, Al Massood Automobiles and Nissan Middleast as official car partners, in cooperation with Emirates Racing Authority, IFAHR, Emirates Arabian Horse Society, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare and sponsored by Ayadi LLC, Global United Veterinary Services LLC, Wathba Stallions, Abu Dhabi Falconers Club, Emirates Falconers Club, Mohamed Bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), Al Awani General Enterprises, Kabale, Omeir Travels, Laboratories Fadia Karam Cosmetics, YAS Channel, Racing Post, Paris Turf, Al Wathba Centre, the UAE’s General Women’s Union, The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy, Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition 2018, Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Eastern Mangroves Suites-Abu Dhabi by Jannah, Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa and Resort.