Al Tiryaq lands feature but O’Shea dominates with another treble, two for Al Asayl
A 1600m handicap was the most valuable and featured contest at Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening, for which only seven went to post but they still managed to produce an intriguing finish with the lead changing hands three times in the short 400m straight.
RV Moulins Monarch and Royston Ffrench led from the outset until, leaving the home turn, they were swamped with AF Al Sajanjle taking the initiative, one he and Antonio Fresu maintained until halfway up the home run.
They were snared by Molahen El Alhan who looked the likely winner under Jose Santiago until, widest of all, Sam Hitchcott pounced aboard Al Tiryaq, just as Dane O’Neill, suspended on this occasion, had done aboard the same horse, over 1400m at Abu Dhabi, a fortnight ago.
Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi and with Hitchcott sporting the lime green colours of the trainer’s main patron, Al Abjan Stables, Al Tiryaq was adding this victory to two previous ones, both at Abu Dhabi, over the 200m shorter trip.
“He won well the last day for Dane and this 1600m, in a small field behind a steady gallop has suited him because he does have a good turn of foot which he has shown again today,” said Hitchcott.
“He is an improving horse and it has taken us a while to get to know him; ridden patiently over this type of trip is what he needs as opposed to the staying trips we tried him over a couple of times.”
Arguably the best quality race was the following fillies and mares’ 1600m conditions event which attracted a select field of five with Al Asayl pair Mawahib and Mahbooba coming home first and second, completing a double for her connections.
Stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, who had the choice of that pair, as well as RB Dixie Burning, all trained by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chose right and always looked confident aboard Mawahib.
RB Dixie Burning made the early running before being passed by Gerald Avranche and Mahbooba just after halfway.
They led until the 400m pole, when AF Marrah took over but she was swallowed up by the Al Asayl pair in the final 100m with Mawahib winning comfortably, following up a win on her previous start, over 1700m, on the Sharjah dirt.
O’Shea explained: “Al Asayl had three nice fillies in the race and it was an ideal opportunity for them, on a racecourse, for a decent prize; otherwise they would have had to do a piece of work at home.
“I was impressed with Mawahib having won on her at Sharjah when I hit the front too soon so I was happy to leave it late here.
“She is improving and that was only her seventh start so, with luck she can continue to do so.”
‘Twelfth time lucky’ is not a phrase you often hear but that was the case with Al Asayl’s Hawafez, registering his first victory, in thrilling fashion, when storming home under O’Shea to land the opening 1400m maiden, seemingly needing every metre of the trip.
Twice second, including last time behind Al Tiryaq, among his previous 11 outings, he finally put his head in front here, making relentless progress inside the final 150m to deny AF Khaddaa who had looked set to score comfortably under John Egan but had no response to the winner’s late challenge.
Having tracked the early pace, he seemed to be outpaced as the leaders kicked for home and was then a bit short of room about 250m out but, once in the clear, stayed on resolutely to snatch a victory which looked unlikely even 100m from the line.
O’Shea said: “He has twice been second over 1400m, including a fortnight ago, over this course and distance, in a better race.
“He has run some good races in defeat so it is nice he has put his head in front. He stays further and acts on dirt so, hopefully, there will be plenty of options for him.”
O’Shea was soon back in the winner’s enclosure after the smooth victory of BF Mughader in a 2200m handicap, the joint longest race of the evening.
Victorious once in his native Oman, the winner was opening his local account at the third attempt having been second, then third, on his previous two, both at Abu Dhabi.
Saddled by Ibrahim Al Hadhrami, he was always travelling supremely well for O’Shea who followed Pat Cosgrave and Shivan Oa through before sweeping past with about 200m left to run.
“It has been a good evening,” said a beaming O’Shea. “We were drawn out in 14 but I was able to get across and into a nice position after which everything went pretty smoothly.
“I thought Pat’s horse was a big danger so was happy to stalk him and they took me nicely into the race after which my fellow picked up well to win in a bit of style.”
The 1400m handicap, the only Thoroughbred race on the card, produced an almost carbon copy finish to the first, only this time it was O’Shea left frustrated after pounced upon by Connor Beasley aboard Pathway To Honour.
O’Shea went straight to the front on Najm Suhail and when the pair skipped clear leaving the home turn, entering the short home straight, they appeared to have the majority of their 13 rivals beaten.
The exception proved to be Pathway To Honour, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash and having his fourth local outing, all at Abu Dhabi.
Making his seasonal debut, it was his first start since well beaten over course and distance in March but, perhaps more importantly, he was second in this same race 12 months ago on what was his first UAE appearance.
“The horses have been running well and we were pretty hopeful as we knew conditions suited him,” said Bin Harmash.
Beasley added: “They went a good gallop which really helped him and I was able to secure a dream run up the rail when I needed it.
“He then ran on very well and I was always pretty confident we would get there in the final 200m.”
He may have been denied there, but with seven winners over the weekend, having partnered one at Meydan and another treble at Al Ain, O’Shea has joined Pat Cosgrave on 15 at the top of the jockeys’ championship.
Cosgrave had to wait until the finale, a 2200m maiden, to register a winner on the night. Riding Ajaj for Helal Al Alawi, he always looked as though he knew he was on the winner, sitting in midfield before easing into contention on the home turn.
They effortlessly led halfway up the home run and putting the race to bed in a few strides to supply his trainer a 13th victory of the season, four behind Doug Watson.