Strong European challenge for Dh5m Jewel Crown in Abu Dhabi's big meeting of season

Highlight of capital's racing calendar still has strong field despite absence of last year's winner Messi

Messi winning the 2020 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

The Dh5million ($1.36m) Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown for Purebred Arabians is the highlight of Abu Dhabi’s biggest meeting of the season on Sunday.

The 2,200-metre race has drawn 14 runners following the withdrawal of last year’s winner Messi after being confirmed as a non-runner on Thursday due to lameness.

Even with Messi’s absence, the European challenge looks particularly strong with four runners trained in France, the country that produced the 2017 winner Muraaqib and Al Shamoos, who landed the prize 12 months later.

On official ratings, the Thomas Fourcy-trained pair Hoggar De L’Ardus, the mount of Maxime Guyon, and Lady Princess, ridden by Jim Crowley, appear to be the big dangers.

Both are already Group 1 winners and Fourcy said: “Lady Princess was in great form during the European season and she is a very smart mare, not the biggest, but all heart.

“Hoggar De L’Ardus also had a very good year at home, is in great form and stall nine is a good one.”

Freddie Sanchez’s Hayyan — in the silks of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed’s Yas Horse Racing Management and who finished third last year — and Olivier Peslier’s mount, the Elisabeth Bernard-trained Artemis, complete the French challenge.

Only Al Asayl’s RB Burn has kept the prize in the UAE — in 2016 — but Salem Al Ketbi will be hoping to provide the training operation a second winner in the race, saddling Basmah on whom Richard Mullen will be sporting the silks of the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa.

“Draw four is ideal because she likes to make the running,” assistant trainer, Derek O’Brien, said. “On ratings, she has a bit to find, but she has been prepared for this and has been training well.”

The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup races for both Arabians and thoroughbreds, the two main support contests on the night, have both drawn competitive fields.

Hameem, undefeated in six starts, appears to be the one to beat in the Group 3 race for the Arabians while the thoroughbred equivalent looks a wide open contest.

Race schedule

5pm Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Racing Festival — Handicap (PA) Dh100,000 (Turf) 2,200m

5.30pm Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Cup — Conditions (PA) Dh150,000 (T) 1,600m

6pm Purebred Arabian Cup — Conditions (PA) Dh150,000 (T) 1,600m

6.30pm Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan National Day Cup — Group 3 (PA) Dh500,000 (T) 1,600m

7.15pm Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Jewel Crown — Group 1 (PA) Dh5,000,000 (T) 2,200m

7.45pm Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan President’s Cup — Listed (TB) Dh380,000 (T) 1,600m

8.15pm Wathba Stallions Cup — Handicap (PA) Dh100,000 (T) 1,400m

Updated: December 4th 2021, 2:37 PM