Haajeb will be hard to beat in final UAE meeting

Merzal has yet to win in the UAE and the Al Ain race will be his 10th attempt to rectify that statistic.
Merzal will be in action Saturday at Al Ain. Lee Hoagland / The National
Merzal will be in action Saturday at Al Ain. Lee Hoagland / The National

Al Ain Racecourse stages the final UAE meeting of the year on Saturday with a six-race card highlighted by a 2,000 metres conditions contest.

Only six have been declared for the race with the Yousef Al Bloushi-trained Haajeb looking hard to beat, especially with the added benefit of apprentice Saeed Al Mazrouei’s three kilogram claim.

The horse is proven on the new Al Ain dirt, having finished second on the surface five weeks ago, but does still only have one career victory to his name – in a 1,600m conditions race on the synthetic surface Al Ain raced on last season.

“This looks a great opportunity for him with much in his favour. We have to be very hopeful,” said Al Mazrouei, who was also in the saddle for Haajeb’s single win.

Haajeb is one of two in the race owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the other being the Majed Al Jahouri-trained Merzal, the mount of Silvestre De Sousa.

A son of multiple Group 1 winner Mizzna and a full brother to last season’s Kahayla Classic-winning stable companion, Rabbah De Carrere, De Sousa’s mount has yet to win in the UAE.

This will be his 10th attempt to rectify that statistic.

Salem Al Ketbi is saddling his first runners from Al Asayl Stables and runs two in the race. Royston Ffrench has picked up the spare ride on Burj Khalifa with stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, choosing to ride ­Nashmee.

Winner of an Al Ain maiden on debut in March (previous surface) O’Shea’s mount was a close fourth on his only subsequent start in a 1,600m handicap on Abu Dhabi Racecourse’s turf six weeks ago.

“The trip was certainly on the sharp side last time,” O’Shea said. “He ran well enough though and will relish this extra 400m. Obviously he has plenty to find on the ratings but his work has been good and he is my best chance of the weekend I think.”

The only thoroughbred contest is a 1000m maiden and the final race on the card. Eight have been declared and again Al Mazrouei appears to have strong claims, this time aboard Intense Effort for trainer, Mohd Al Subouse.

Runner-up over 1,000m on the course on his penultimate start, he will be having his sixth career start and is trying the minimum trip for the first time.

Silvestre De Sousa rides Conform With Fact for his main employer, Musabah Al Muhairi and the pair were third in a much stronger Jebel Ali maiden at their previous start.

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Published: December 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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