Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup Leads Sunday Action
The Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Gold Cup, afforded Prestige status and over 1600m, is the official highlight on Sunday in the capital with just six declared for a race which was due to have been staged at a meeting which was postponed at the end of January. Six were also declared on that occasion, but of said sextet, only three are taking their chance on Sunday, headed by AF Al Hazer. Like half the field, he is to be saddled by Ernst Oertel for champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda.
The mount of Antonio Fresu, AF AL Hazer was last seen when well-beaten in the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night in March.
“His best form is there for all to see and would give him a leading chance on Sunday,” Fresu said. “Obviously he has been off a while but he has been ready to run for a while. Hopefully he is going to run a big race.”
Stable companion, AF Marrah has the assistance of Silvestre De Sousa, who was due to ride AF AL Hazer when the race was originally scheduled. The only mare in the race, she is seeking to win on this card for the second year running after having landed the Emirates Fillies’ Classic over this 1600m last year. Previously successful in the 1400m Abu Dhabi Fillies Classic, they remain her only two career victories.
One who was not among the original six but runs on Sunday is Hamza, winner of the race last year when AF AL Hazer was fourth. Trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Hamza has not won since but does appear to have his optimum conditions here after two outings on dirt, the most recent in Saudi Arabia.
Previously he finished a close third, over this 1600m course and distance, in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup (G3) behind his stable companions Darius Du Paon and RB Burn.
He will be ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, who said: “Obviously conditions suit him and he won the race well enough last year. Ernst Oertel has a strong hand but Hamza should be competitive in a strong little race.”
Al Tiryaq was an intended runner three weeks ago and has won since, over 2200m on the Abu Dhabi turf, a fortnight ago.
Sam Hitchcott, in the saddle then for Al Ajban Stables and their trainer, Abdallah Al Hammadi, is so again and said: “He is a decent little horse has a turn of foot which is a big asset in these races. He has won over 1400m this season, as well as 2200m last time and the 1600m of Sunday’s race so is certainly versatile. Hopefully he should run well again.”
Also Prestige races and over 1600m are the Emirates Colts and Emirates Fillies Classics, restricted to four-year-olds. In the latter, the maximum field allowed of 16 has been declared with no less than five representing the Al Nabooda and Oertel combination. Fresu rides AF Sharesah, second in the 1400m Abu Dhabi Fillies Classic, with De Sousa aboard AF Noqoush, winner of her only start on the Sharjah dirt in December.
Al Asayl have both Faheeda, the choice of O’Shea and Ras Esina, to be ridden by Gerald Avranche. Both look to hold claims, but Ghazayel looks the one to beat having won her one UAE outing in the Abu Dhabi Fillies Classic.
Half an hour later, in the colts’ equivalent, nine will go to post with MH Rahal, trained by Elise Jeanne, looking to follow up his victory in the Abu Dhabi Colts Classic. Posting a second consecutive win, that was his most recent and third career start.