Racing returns to the capital after a four week hiatus on Sunday when the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club host a six race card, highlighted by a fascinating 1400m handicap for which eight have been declared with the weights headed by Al Tiryaq.
The mount of Sam Hitchcott, he is trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables and arrives here having won his two most recent starts after finishing well beaten on his seasonal debut at the first Abu Dhabi fixture of the campaign in November.
The first of his two wins this season came in a conditions race, over the same 1400m course and distance as Sunday’s contest with Dane O’Neill riding, before he stepped up 200m to land a 1600m handicap under Hitchcott.
“He needed his first run more than we thought, and it was over 2200m which is probably too far for him anyway” said Hitchcott. “He then won well for Dane and improved on that when I won on him last time. He is a nice, straightforward, progressive, horse with a turn of foot and we are very hopeful.”
The main danger looks to be Asyyad, representing Al Asayl and on whom Gerald Avranche will be sporting the silks of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for Eric Lemartinel. Third on debut, he won his second start, the Listed Abu Dhabi Championship over 1600m and is open to any amount of improvement on just his third outing.
“He is a nice, young horse and one we have always liked,” said Avranche. “We have to think he has a big chance and hopefully can keep progressing.”
Like Al Tiryaq, the Satish Seemar-trained Extra Hope arrives here on the back of two consecutive victories, in her case over 1000m at Al Ain and then 1200m at Abu Dhabi. On board for both those victories, Champion Jockey, Richard Mullen, is again in the saddle but she needs to improve again to trouble the principles.
Champion Owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, has three in the race, all trained by Ernst Oertel with AF Al Jahed seemingly holding the strongest claims under Antonio Fresu. The pair won a 1600m Abu Dhabi handicap when he last ran, at the end of November, and this 1400m will actually be the shortest trip over which he has raced on what will be his 13th start.
The only Thoroughbred race is a 1600m maiden and the maximum field of 14 have been declared. Again, Seemar and Mullen combine, this time with Immortalised who is seeking to open his account at the eighth attempt and, on official ratings, is the one the others all have to beat. His stable companions, Dawwaas and King’s Shadow, the mounts of Adrie de Vries and Pat Cosgrave respectively, both hold claims but Al Madam could be the main danger.
Owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, she is the only mount on the card for his retained jockey, Jim Crowley, and should be competitive under what may prove her optimum conditions. Third twice and fourth on her three previous attempts at 1400m, her only turf outing was a second, over 1800m at Meydan and she has struggled both starts this campaign, over 1950m at Jebel Ali and 2000m at Al Ain. This lesser stamina test should suit her and trainer Ahmad bin Harmash, who is enjoying a steady season. He also runs Muqaatil, the mount of Silvestre de Sousa and likely to appreciate the switch to turf after four lacklustre attempts on dirt.
This will be his first turf outing in the UAE and connections will be hoping the change of surface coincides with an improved performance.