Mullen double highlighted by feature success with O’Shea recording an Al Ain treble
Racing for just the second time this season on Friday afternoon, the UAE’s newest racecourse at Al Ain staged a seven race card which was highlighted by a handicap over 1800m.
Ajjaj who only led at one point, hit the front in the very last stride to snatch victory from AF Abahe who had led from the outset.
Only six went to post and the eventual winner, trained by Saifaldin Deeb for Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was one of the first under pressure and looked in trouble at halfway under Richard Mullen.
As Mullen was rousting his mount along, Antonio Fresu and AF Abahe were seeing off a joint challenge from Meydan Du Paon, who weakened, and Ifraaj, who then finished well to secure a close third.
Fresu’s mount looked to have done enough but tired markedly close home, suffering heartbreak on the line when Mullen drove Ajjaj’s head in front where it mattered having powered through the final 100m.
Mullen said: “He was fourth behind three of these on his seasonal debut when he needed the run and Saif Deeb has his horses in good form now.
“To be honest, on the turn I thought I might finish fourth if I was lucky but, once he found his rhythm, he finished well and hit overdrive in the final stages.
“Thankfully we managed to get there just in time and I was lucky to have such a willing partner.”
The jockey completed a double, landing the finale, a 1600m conditions contest, aboard Rmmas, trained on the Al Ain track by Jean de Roualle and opening his local account at the second attempt on this his maiden dirt appearance.
His UAE debut was actually when ninth in the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian race, the Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown, so this was a massive drop in class.
Sporting the silks of Yas Horse Racing Management, Mullen had to get serious with Rmmas to coax him past Inthar but they won well enough in the end.
Earlier, having only his third career start, after a second then third on his two previous outings, AF Sanad ran out the easy winner of the opening 1600m handicap, his first venture out of handicap company.
Never far away under Tadhg O’Shea, they hit the front soon after entering the long straight and could be called the winner from a long way out, registering a first win of the season for Khalifa Al Neyadi who owns and trains the horse, bred by Champion Owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda. It was more than 12 lengths back to the remainder!
O’Shea said: “In theory we had a bad draw in 13 but it was only his third start so I was able to keep out of any trouble so his inexperience was not an issue.
“I followed Antonio Fresu on AF Nashet as I thought he was one of the main dangers and he carried me into the race before my fellow put the race to bed quite quickly early in the straight.
“It is a good result for a small operation and this horse is probably going to improve with experience.”
Twice second and fourth three times, from five previous outings, Zahee registered a deserved first success with an ultra-smooth victory in a maiden over 1800m with stable companion, Marari De Faust chasing him home.
Trained at Al Asayl Stables, by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the winner was always travelling well under a very confident O’Shea who waited until passing the 300m pole before committing for home.
When he did, the race was over to make it third time lucky this season and O’Shea said: “This horse deserved to get his head in front after some good efforts in defeat and everything went right today.
“I was always happy and just waited before going for home. Once I did, he had the race won in a few strides and, hopefully, this will do his confidence a lot of good.”
Connections completed a maiden double with the similarly smooth success, over 1600m, of RB Grynade who has having just his second career start.
Settled at the rear of the main group by O’Shea, completing a personal treble, the pair made smooth progress in the straight, leading 200m out and winning fairly cosily.
Only seventh, and beaten a long way a fortnight ago on his course and distance debut, this was a big step forward.
O’Shea said: ‘I rode him the first day and he needed the experience which has shown today because he has done that nicely.”
Lemartinel added: “There is a Listed race at Abu Dhabi which will likely be his next target.”
It looked improbable entering the straight but Parklife was able to snatch victory in the only Thoroughbred race, a maiden over 1800m, making relentless progress down the centre of the track to deny Mears close home, having entered the straight with few of his 14 rivals behind him.
Having his sixth UAE outing for Beverley Deutrom and seventh career start, after one start for Andre Fabre and Godolphin in France, the four-year-old responded well to the urgings of apprentice, Adam McLean.
It was a first win of the season for Deutrom and second for the jockey who explained: “He broke awkwardly and I had to take my time and let him find his own stride to suit himself.
“He takes a while to get organised and find that stride so the long straight and coming wider, to ensure an uninterrupted run, has really suited him. That is one of the reasons he is here at Al Ain; we know the long straight is in his favour.
“It is nice to have the support of the Deutrom team and these winners mean a lot to everyone.”
Breeder of the first winner and narrowly denied with AF Abahe in the feature, Al Nabooda did celebrate one victory when Fresu drove the homebred AF Al Baher to a hard fought victory in a maiden over 1800m.
Having just his second start and trained by Ernst Oertel, Fresu’s mount, fourth on debut, here at Al Ain over 1600m, was left in front leaving the home turn and ran on in determined fashion, eyeballed throughout the final 300m by the more experienced Hareer Al Reef.
Every time the latter threatened to get on top, AF Al Baher dug deeper and the pair flashed past the line together with just a flared nostril between them.
Fresu said: “Full credit to the horse today; he has just responded and battled, answering my every call. It was only his second start and he has shown a really good attitude and a determination to win.
“The second kept trying to get past but my horse would not let him and you would hope he can build on this now he has a win to his name.”