Racing at Jebel Ali on Friday afternoon, the first meeting of 2019 up the famous hill, was highlighted by a 1000m conditions race for 3-year-old's and Golden Jaguar produced a remarkable performance to win on debut. As the stalls opened, the colt by 2013 Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom appeared to lean backwards, almost rearing and forfeiting a few lengths to his 12 rivals. Representing the same team as Thursday’s impressive winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, Walking Thunder, he was given plenty of time to find his stride by Connor Beasley, sporting the silks of the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate. Still last at halfway, the pair suddenly scythed through the field like a knife through butter, hitting the front inside the final 150m and pulling away to win in style for trainer Ahmad bin Harmash.
Beasley, completing a quick double, said: “Apart from that moment in the gates he was very professional, but will certainly have learned a lot from the experience. Having been slowly into stride it, actually suited in the end because he had to face the kickback and that will have helped him learn to race. He is a big horse and will come on a lot for that both fitness-wise and mentally.”
Half an hour earlier, Craving provided Simon Crisford with a first winner from his new Meydan satellite yard at Millennium Stables when running out the smooth winner of a 1600m handicap. Confidently ridden by Beasley, who tracked early leader Invincible Strike until sweeping past him at the 300m pole, the pair stayed on strongly to land the spoils. Owned by Sultan Ali, the 4-year-old Equiano colt won once in Britain, over 1600m on the Southwell fibresand and clearly handled the Jebel Ali surface with aplomb.
“The team were pretty hopeful coming here and have been proved right,” Beasley said. “He has really taken well to the surface and handled that sharp bend well, which not all horses do first time here. I was able to give him a breather at the top of the straight and he has then run on strongly to score nicely.”
A second 1600m handicap saw the silks of Galaxy Racing carried to victory for the very first time with the cosy victory of Kunani, ridden by Ben Curtis for Musabbeh Al Mheiri. A 1400m course winner at the very first meeting of the season at the end of October, the 5-year-old Arch gelding was then beaten three times over that course and distance but relished the extra distance here to double his career tally.
Curtis said: “He was nice and fresh at the very first meeting when he won over 1400m, but the handicapper seemed to have his measure at that trip so we were keen to try him over the extra 200m. The new distance has really suited him and it is great for new owners to have a winner early on.”
Proceedings kicked off with the only Purebred Arabian race on the card, a 1400m conditions event in which a maximum field of 16 faced the starter but only three ever really threatened to land the spoils with AF Al Jahed probably never headed under Tadhg O’Shea. Always going well under the 2017-18 champion UAE jockey, the 7-year-old was tracked throughout the majority of the race by Ghazwan Al Khalediah before his challenge petered out with 300m to run. It was left to Dassan Da to give chase but his quest proved fruitless with the race in safe keeping for AF Al Jahed, who now has five career victories to his name.
Trained by Ernst Oertel for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, he was winning for a third time at Jebel Ali and O’Shea said: “He likes it here at Jebel Ali, but that is his first win on the straight course having won over 1600m and 1800m previously. He stays further, so I was happy to be positive and, drawn 16, I was happy to stay on the nearside; the fastest way home is a straight line, obviously. He was probably the best horse in the race, anyway, and has won reasonably comfortably in the end.”
Having supplied trainer Erwan Charpy with a belated first winner of the campaign, in a 1400m course handicap a fortnight ago, Pinter doubled his handler’s seasonal tally with a comfortable 1200m handicap victory. Again ridden by Antonio Fresu, the 7-year-old gelding was settled just behind the leaders on the far side of the course before Fresu found a gap on the rail and the pair shot to the front 250m from home after which they never looked likely to be caught.
“This horse loves it here at Jebel Ali and everything went right today,” Charpy said. “There was plenty of speed on our side of the track for him to follow and Antonio was able to find plenty of cover before striking for home.”
Fresu added: “He just loves this straight course up the hill, but is a bit tricky at times. He has been running well all season and is getting his reward.”
Only six took their chance in the 1950m handicap and, having been slowly away and seemingly reluctant to race for the first 100m, Bois De Boulogne ran out a narrow winner, just doing enough to hold the late challenge of Gavroche with the winner almost stopping nearing the line. Trained by Sandeep Jadhav for Ahmad Ghalita Almheiri, the 5-year-old Street Cry horse was ridden by Xavier Ziani, as he was when winning the equivalent race 12 months ago. Also victorious on his penultimate start, over 1700m at Sharjah, he delighted his trainer, who said: “On his day he is a very useful horse and credit to Xavier who knows him well. That was a very pleasing victory and we will probably bring him back to Jebel Ali for his next race.”
Ziani added: “He took me to the front almost too easily and then, in the final 50m, it was getting quite close because he was thinking he had done enough.”
The concluding 1600m maiden proved a memorable one for trainer Helal Al Alawi with his two runners, Nizal and Compliance filling the first two places but stable jockey, William Lee, was on the runner-up with Pat Cosgrave aboard the winner. A 4-year-old Dubawi colt, the winner was opening his career tally at the fifth attempt and third both for Al Alawi and at Jebel Ali having run just twice when trained in France by Freddy Head for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also bred him.