ABU DHABI // Saeed Al Mazrooei, the Emirati apprentice, rode a superb tactical race on El Wasmi to win the featured thoroughbred handicap from the two-time British champion jockey Paul Hanagan at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club Sunday night.
El Wasmi, drawn from the reserves after the late withdrawal of Mujrayaat from the 14-runner field, made all the running under Al Mazrooei to win the 1,600m contest by a short head from Entifaadha, a Group 3 winner at York in England.
"I could see Paul breathing down my neck and I thought he would beat me to the line, but my horse did well to hold on," Al Mazrooei said. "He hung a bit towards the end but still had enough to take me first past the post.
"The instructions were for me to lead from the start and it worked perfectly well on the night. This was the second time I was riding him so I knew a good deal of him.
"It was a lucky winner because I didn't know [I would be riding him] until in the afternoon."
Al Mazrooei was quickly out of Gate 3 on the five-year-old bay son of Oasis Dream.
Hanagan settled Entifaadha in fifth before making his challenge from the 200m pole, but the four-year-old Dansili gelding under the top weight of 62kg just failed to make up the ground.
Entifaadha won a Group 3 contest in August 2011 when trained by William Haggas and was making his first appearance at the capital's racecourse.
"The plan didn't work out well for us because he was left with too much to do towards the end," Musabah Al Muhairi, the trainer, said.
"Had he been close to the leader as per the instructions he certainly would have finished ahead. He now goes back to the Carnival and hopefully it will be third time lucky."
Ali Rashid Al Raihe, the UAE champion trainer, had three in the race and conceded El Wasmi was the least fancied.
"The trip was the minimum for all three of them and the plan was for Saeed to make the running, and it worked well for us," the Grandstand Stables trainer said.
"We tried him on the dirt at Jebel Ali, he didn't like that surface. He seems to like the turf at Abu Dhabi. We will see how he has comes out of this race and hopefully bring him back next week."
Silvestre de Sousa, the Godolphin jockey, rode a double for the trainer Ibrahim Al Hadhrami.
On both occasions the Brazilian, had to draw on all his strength to win.
He took the opener on Wald Johnny in a battle to the line with Udine Du Pouy under Royston Ffrench and held off a strong late challenge from Richleau to clinch the fourth race on Gabas Noor by a short head.
Jaber Bittar, the Abu Dhabi-based trainer, also completed a double with Talmoud and Kerkouan under two different jockeys - Daragh O'Donohoe and Adrie de Vries.
Talmoud was a convincing winner of the second race, a handicap rated 0-65 and Kerkouan prevailed in a driving finish from Raheq (Jesus Rosales) and Richly Blessed (Tadhg O'Shea) to win the conditions race.
Wayne Smith came with a late run on Eric Lemartinel's Magik De Paon to win the Wathba Cup, a handicap rated 0-65 sprint over six furlongs.
The win took Smith's tally to 19, one more than O'Shea, the defending champion, in the jockeys' championship.
Smith had ridden the Mahabb colt to victory on December 23 before going unplaced in his next race three weeks ago.
"He did it very well to win again over a trip that was a bit sharp for him after a disappointing run last time. He is a nice young horse and has a bit of class in him," Smith said.