The inaugural running of the HE Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, a 1700m handicap and only Thoroughbred race on the card, was the Sharjah highlight on Saturday afternoon.
The maximum field of 16 faced the starter but in all reality very few were able to land a blow after Sam Hitchcott sent Say No More straight to the front. Saddled by Doug Watson, he was never in much danger and the trainer explained: “The idea was to be positive from that draw and Sam has ridden the perfect race. This looked a good opportunity for the horse and so it proved to be.”
Sixteen may have gone to post for the opening 1200m maiden, restricted to fillies and mares foaled here in the UAE, but only one really mattered with AF Noqoush soon in front under Antonio Fresu, riding for Champion Owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and former Champion Trainer, Ernst Oertel.
Well away, AF Noqoush was always in the driving seat, soon after halfway she was well clear and had the race in safe keeping to make the perfect start to her career. Al Nabooda said: “Ernst was quite hopeful she would run well after some good homework but that was quite impressive. Obviously, it is the perfect start to win first time so we now just hope she can build on that.”
The following 1200m maiden, identical in conditions other than for colts and geldings was won in not dissimilar fashion by El Magam who probably did not lead from the outset but was well in control from halfway.Ridden by Tadhg O’Shea for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Al Asayl team of Eric Lemartinel, it was a case of third time lucky for El Magam whose previous two career efforts had been this season.
O’Shea said: “You always know in these Al Asayl silks, you have a decent chance and this fellow really delivered today. He carried me into the race very strongly and then ran on in great fashion to the line to win well.”
The jockey wasted no time in completing a 1200m maiden double, albeit in totally different circumstances, when Malab had to work exceptionally hard to open her account at the eighth attempt.
In front most of the way, Malab was definitely headed 200m out but the filly fought back valiantly, leading again right on the line to the delight of her trainer, Elise Jeanne, who said: “That was a very exciting and brave win; she was headed and perhaps looked beaten but fought back very bravely. Full credit to the filly and Tadhg O’Shea who certainly did not give up when they were headed.”
The best of the Purebred Arabian action was a 2000m handicap, won in resolute fashion by Carlos De Carrere, partnered by apprentice Saif Al Balushi riding for Ibrahim Al Hadhrami.
Always seemingly travelling well just behind the early pace, the winner appeared to hit the front, briefly on the home turn before drifting wide and forfeiting that lead.
However, once in the straight their progress was relentless and ultimately victory was smooth. Trainer Al Hadhrami said: “We came here hoping he had a good chance and he has, in the end, won nicely.”