Ffrench clinches National Day Cup at Al Ain

Peter Ward 10/12/2016
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Having missed the break, the Helal Al Alawi-trained Sniper De Monlau looked more intent on stopping than racing with Ffrench forced to resort to his whip very early on. Previously unraced on dirt, Ffrench’s mount finally started to help his jockey when taken out wide of his seven rivals.

Entering the long Al Ain straight, they were widest of all but, unlike last season when he threw away two, if not three of his five races by drifting badly left, Sniper De Monlau ran ‘gun barrel straight’.

Making relentless progress towards the centre of the track, they hit the front 200m from home to deny Faucon Du Loup victory.

It was an impressive performance with three Group One winners, including the runner-up, among his seven victims on what was only his sixth career start.

Ffrench was, understandably, delighted to land the Dh300,000 first prize and said: “All winners are nice but winning a big race with a valuable purse is more special.

“This is a very good, young horse and there should be more to come from him. The trainer and his team have done a great job with him and deserved an awful lot of credit.”

The trainer went on to complete a double with RB Goliath and George Buckell landing a 1000m handicap.

In contrast, Montmorency, victorious in the only Thoroughbred race – a 1000m handicap – was having his 50th career outing and recording an eight win. A horse who turns eleven at the end of the month, he had last visited the winner’s enclosure in March 2012.

Trained by Satish Seemar, he was a first UAE winner for the stable’s apprentice Cameron Noble.

Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea was in double form, landing the first and last of the seven races, highlighted by the hard fought success of  Sheikh Down in a 2600m handicap, the opening round of the Al Ain Marathon Series. He is trained by Eric Lemartinel, for Sheikh Khalifa.

Earlier, the Mohd Ramadan-trained Babel D’Aillas was the easy winner of the opening 2000m maiden, under O’Shea who, seemingly, never had a moment of worry.

Sheikh Mansour owned first and second in a 2000m handicap with Saeed Al Mazrooei aboard the Majed Al Jahouri-trained Ajjaj denying Munaaf, saddled by Ahmad Al Mehairbi and ridden by Hary Bentley.

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Sweet revenge for Championship

Peter Ward 5/12/2016
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Ahmad-bin-Harmash

The first major Thoroughbred race of the campaign, Sunday’s Listed National Day Cup, was won in style by Championship under Colm O’Donoghue, who claimed a first win in his role as stable jockey to Ahmad bin Harmash.

The trainer has his string in great form and this was an impressive victory from a quality field, including last year’s winner, Forjatt, who was fifth and Shamaal Nibras, whom Championship chased home in the course and distance prep race three weeks ago.

Penalised on that occasion, Championship had no such extra burden this time and looked the likely winner from a long way out, inflicting revenge on Shamaal Nibras.

O’Donoghue, a multiple Group One-winning jockey in his role with Irish Champion Trainer Aidan O’Brien, for whom he won the Group 2 UAE Derby aboard Daddy Long Legs in 2012, said: “The team were very confident coming here after his great run in the prep and he did that very nicely. I am delighted to get a big winner for the yard so early in the season.”

The Purebred Arabian feature, the 1600m Group 3 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup, went the way of Sharaf Al Reef, arguably a surprise winner under Fernando Jara.

The pair, having looked outpaced throughout the first half of the race, eventually seemed to benefit from a frantic early gallop with the early leaders weakening in the final 300m.

He is trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi who had already visited the winner’s enclosure courtesy of Sarab Al Reef, who triumphed under Jesus Rosales in a 1600m conditions contest.

Manchester City may have been defeated by Chelsea on Saturday, but Sheikh Mansour saw his colours carried to victory twice, bookending the card with Fahadd in the opening 1400m maiden and Qader in the last, a 1600m handicap.

The other race, a 1200m handicap, was dominated by trainer Ernst Oertel who provided the first three home, Madjanthis, Ibn Harmany Al Zobair and AF Hakeem.

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Forjatt the favourite for National Day Cup

Peter Ward 4/12/2016
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The race is the biggest of the season so far.

Sunday evening’s renewal promises to be a cracker with Forjatt attempting to become the third dual winner in the 1600m feature which was first run in 1993.

Emirates Gold defended his crown in 2008, as did Jaasoos in 2010 and Dhruba Selvaratnam, trainer of the latter, will be hoping Forjatt can emulate his former stable companion and provide his handler with a record sixth victory in the race.

Also victorious in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile in 2014, Forjatt has been a great servant to connections since making his local debut in January 2012, winning eight times (notincluding finishing ‘first past the post’ in the 2015 Jebel Ali Mile before being disqualified after testing positive for a prohibited substance).

Under a penalty, he was third in the National Day Cup Prep, also over 1600m, three weeks ago but Selvaratnam hopes the benefit of that outing will see him go close.

He said: “He is an 8yo now and needed his first run, probably more than we thought he would. Obviously he has ground to make up on Championship and Shamaal Nibras, but hopefully he will go close.”

Stable jockey, Chris Hayes, is still out of action with a wrist injury so Selvaratnam has booked Irish Champion Jockey, Pat Smullen, reuniting a partnership successful over many seasons in the past.

Runner-up in the trial was Championship, like Forjatt, carrying a penalty on that occasion. His trainer, Ahmad bin Harmash, has been saddling plenty of winners and he looks sure to be a big threat under new stable jockey, Colm O’Donoghue.

However, the biggest danger to Forjatt’s repeat bid could be Shamaal Nibras, impressive winner of the prep but, it must be emphasised that he received weight from both the other pair, which is not the case here.

His trainer, Doug Watson, saddled a treble at Meydan on Thursday, two of whom were ridden by Shamaal Nibras’ jockey, Pat Dobbs, who rode three winners [two for Watson] on Thursday.

Watson said: “Shamaal Nibras was gelded over the summer so it was very pleasing to see him win so well first time out, especially as my horses were needing their first run on the whole.

“He is in great form and should run very well but the second and third are entitled to have improved for their seasonal debuts also.”

It is interesting Watson mentions seasonal debuts; Cross Grain, the mount of Richard Mullen for Satish Seemar, has won first time out in all three seasons he has raced and looks a very interesting rival here.

The main Purebred Arabian contest is the Group 3 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup, also over 1600m and Thakif, winner in 2014, looks the one to beat.

Trained by Majed Al Jahouri, he carries a penalty but is a genuine Group One performer who, facing just seven rivals, should be able to get to the front under Harry Bentley.

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