Thrilling finish to Jebel Ali feature
Racing at Jebel Ali on Friday afternoon was highlighted by a 1400m handicap which went right down to the wire. With 300m to run in the race at least half of the 12 runners appeared to hold serious claims. It was about this point that early leader Pirate’s Cove cried enough and was swallowed up by the chasing pack, headed by Mushaakis who was himself immediately challenged on both sides.
The Satish Seemar duo of Speedy Move and Above Normal, as well as Pathway To Honour, under Silvestre de Sousa, all loomed as serious challengers. Britain’s Champion jockey was seen in action in the UAE for the first time this season. However, down the centre of the track, challenging widest of all, was Ormindo. The seven year old, like Pathway Of Honour is trained by Ahmad bin Harmash and was making his seasonal debut whereas his stablemate had won at Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The mount of Connor Beasley, aboard Pathway Of Honour for Sunday’s win, Ormindo swept to the lead 200m out and stayed on strongly, posting a sixth career win, all in the UAE, his third success at Jebel Ali but first at a trip this short.
Beasley said: “That 1400m would be very much his minimum trip but they went a proper good early gallop which has really suited him. At halfway I was hard at work but every time I asked him he has responded and when he hit that hill, he really powered up it. “It was his first run of the season and, I would imagine, he will go back up in trip to perhaps 1600m now but that is a great start to his campaign.”
The meeting opened with a 1950m handicap, the longest distance over which they race at Jebel Ali and it looked hard work as Hawker led the 16 runners home, followed by Heraldic who made a gallant effort to lead all the way under Richard Mullen.
Settled in about sixth by Pat Dobbs, the Doug Watson-saddled Hawker always looked to be travelling strongly and made stealthy progress early in the straight, switched to the middle of the track. Still going much the best, they headed Heraldic and the challenging Aslan about 300m from home with the trio having the race to themselves from at least 500m out. Aslan weakened soon afterwards but Heraldic plugged on gamely without ever looking likely to regain the initiative.
It was a second career and first local win for Hawker on his ninth start for Watson who said: “He missed the break here last time over 1400m and was never able to get involved but we thought he had a good chance this afternoon. His penultimate start was a good one over 2000m at Sharjah when he was staying on, after another slow star and Pat has given him a great ride today.”
The following 1800m handicap looked likely to produce a carbon copy outcome for the team at Red Stables when Dobbs and Tradesman eased to the front at the 400m pole. A course and distance maiden winner for Watson three weeks ago, they had all their nine rivals in trouble, apart from Rothenburg who, strongly encouraged by Pat Cosgrave, was making progress on the far rail.
Rothenburg now has two wins from three career starts. He made a winning debut over 1400m at Meydan in November before missing the start when staying on well for fifth in a handicap over the same course and distance. His inexperience was apparent here so it was a good effort.
Cosgrave explained: “He is only three and it is never easy going from a debut maiden success into handicaps against seasoned, experienced, older horses. This 1800m is probably his kind of trip but he is a big baby, raw and only learning. I thought he would travel better today but, as I said, he is just a horse getting the hang of things. Anything he achieves this season will be a bonus and he could be a nice horse going forward.”
Rothenburg is trained by Helal Al Alawi for The Byerley Team, as is Shillong who completed a double for connections with a hard fought victory in a 1200m handicap. Settled in midfield behind what looked a strong early gallop, Shillong was clearly going well at halfway but, with 400m still to run, Cosgrave was seemingly looking for a gap. At the 300m pole one appeared and the pair were soon in front before running on strongly to hold off the final challenge from Galesburg.
A course and distance winner both in March and on his penultimate start, Shillong looked not to stay 1400m four weeks ago. With a month off and dropped to his favourite trip, he recorded his third career victory, all under these conditions.
“He seems to run well fresh so four weeks between races has suited him,” said Cosgrave. “They went a good gallop which has helped him and I was always pretty confident.”
Apprentice Sean Davis, enjoying his maiden season locally, partnered his first UAE winner when probably never headed on Invincible Strike in a 1600m handicap, riding for his local employer, Satish Seemar. Off since January, the winner was having just his fifth dirt. A horse who always races with verve, he appeared to be travelling too strongly early on but soon settled into a lovely rhythm for his young jockey and, fully 600m out, they looked to have the race in safe keeping.
So it proved and a delighted Davis said: “It is great to get that first win on the board and hopefully a few more will follow. “He likes to race that way, from the front and I was able to give him a breather on the bend before kicking on again. He did it well.”
The trainer completed a rapid double, this time with stable jockey, Richard Mullen, performing the steering aboard local debutant, Au Coeur, who proved in a class of his own in the concluding 1600m maiden. Having stalked early leader Dangerous Thought throughout the first 1000m, they hit the front, going well, and never looked in any danger subsequently. Raced just three times in France by Andre Fabre for Godolphin on turf, Au Coeur looks a smart new recruit and clearly handled this new surface with aplomb.
Mullen said: We were quite hopeful as he had been working nicely but they need to produce it on the track and he certainly has today. Hopefully he can build on this. He is potentially a smart young horse and nice one to have in the yard.”