ABU DHABI // Ted Durcan had to summon all his experience and strength to steer Warriors Key to the most exciting win of last night's six-race Abu Dhabi meeting. The seven-time UAE champion jockey held off a strong challenge from the favourite, Emirates Gold, under Pat Smullen to claim the solitary prize for thoroughbreds, a handicap rated 75-100 run over the mile distance. Emirates Gold appeared to be cruising home from the outside but Durcan matched Smullen's challenge stride for stride to take the race in a photo finish.
"He stayed on very gamely. We got a run on the rails, and that gave us some advantage turning for home, rather than coming out wide around the horses," he said. Royston Ffrench, on Palm Court, who led coming out of the final bend, was three-quarters of a length behind in third place, ahead of the Richard Hills-ridden Tawaassol. Hills took the last two races on the card, both handicaps over 11 furlongs, for the owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum on the Gillian Duffield-trained Ejaabi and Sharakka. The Englishman rode two patient races. He timed his run on Ejaabi well to go past Jinad, who tried to make all the running under Ffrench, to win the second last race by four lengths. The stable companion Shibl came with a late run to take third.
Hills rode a similar race on Sharakka, timing his run to perfection, to take the last race from Muzoon de Faust and Alama. Daragh O'Donohoe rode Heart Beat to her first career victory in 12 starts to give the UAE's leading trainer for Arabians, Rod Simpson, the opening prize. The seven-year-old mare by Al Sakbe stayed on gamely to beat AF Mursid and Wanessah W'rsan. The French apprentice Wancelas Walter rode the Eric Lemartinel -trained AF Maqam Alez to an impressive win from Dynamik'Al Fauquey and Milan Ghantoot.
Smullen had some consolation for his narrow defeat on Emirates Gold when he was in the winner's enclosure on Mahalli, leading a one-two finish for the trainer Jameel Salman. Romeo, under Tadhg O'Shea, was second. firstname.lastname@example.org