The Dh1million Group 1 Emirates Championship for the Purebred Arabians promises to be an exciting rematch of the President’s Cup over the track and trip in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Salem Al Ketbi’s Mujeeb, under Richard Mullen, beat Somoud, Hameem, and Izadi Star the last time they met , and the Al Asayl Stables star is favourite to replicate that result.
Mujeeb went down by a short head to Somoud in the President’s Cup Prep on January 19 before turning that result around to win by a length and-a-half in the Dh2.5million Group 1 race.
Somoud won the Emirates Championship in both 2020 (when trained by Ahmed Al Mehairbi) and 2021 for current trainer Jean De Roualle. He was fourth when seeking to complete a hat-trick last year and is a dual winner of the President Cup, over the same 2,200m course and distance.
At six years old, Mujeeb has youth on his side and seems to be improving whereas nine-year-old Somoud is entering the twilight of his fabulous career.
Chasing home Mujeeb and Somoud in that Group 1 highlight was course specialist Hameem, who produces his best efforts on this Abu Dhabi turf track, but perhaps finds this 2,200m slightly challenging in terms of stamina.
That said, he did win the Prep for the Jewel Crown over course and distance in November before finishing third in the real thing. Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, the six-year-old is seeking a 10th career success, all in the UAE, and ninth on this turf track in the capital.
Cristian Demuro is flown in to ride Izadi Star. The France-based Italian jockey was runner-up on the five-year-old Izadi Star in the Qatar Derby for Purebred Arabians in Chantilly in June last year.
AF Al Bairaq, representing the powerful trio of Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah, Ernst Oertel and Tadhg O’Shea, merits respect for his connections alone but he has mostly struggled since being denied by Somoud in the Jewel Crown prep in early November 2020.
If Oertel can coax him back to something like his best, though, he could play a part at the business end.