Antonio Fresu kept the pressure on Tadhg O’Shea in the UAE jockeys' championship, closing the gap to three winners, after riding a double in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Fresu grabbed the first two prizes of the night while O’Shea pulled one back to take his tally to 32 on Ernst Oertel’s AF Mukhrej in the silks of their main patron Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah.
The Italian clinched the opener on Farasah - who finished fourth in his last outing in the UK - for his retained trainer Musabah Al Muhairi and then made all on Ibrahim Al Hadhrami’s SSR Ghazwan half an hour later.
Farasah was making her local debut having run three times in the UK, winning on her racecourse debut and finishing fourth in the Group 1 President of the UAE Cup (UK Arabian Derby) at Doncaster Park in her last start in September.
Fresu kept the five-year-old mare by Mahabb close behind the leaders before sending her to the front at the 400-metre mark and held on gamely to win from Rawaat Al Reef under Fernando Jara by a length.
“That was her first race in more than three months and I would like to think she will improve for her next start, which obviously will be a lot tougher as we expect her to step up in class,” her handler Al Muhairi said.
Soon after Fresu rode two winners, trainer Al Hadhrami followed suit with his second winner on the night when the Irish apprentice Sean Kirrane got Astral Del Sol home in the Wathba Stallions Cup in a close finish.
Astral Del Sol got his head in front 50m from the winning line and held on to win from Shafaf with Patrick Cosgrave in the saddle by a short head.
“He wasn’t beaten too far last time [two-and-half lengths in fifth] and we were hopeful,” the Omani trainer said of the five-year-old by Hilal Al Zaman.
“He arrived at the beginning of last year and taken a while for his first win in eight local starts tonight. He’s progressing and win a couple of prizes before the end of the season, hopefully.”
Celestial Spheres, another winner, ran twice in the Godolphin silks in the 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan before moving to Ismail’s stables. Prior to that, he won four handicaps in the UK.
Gary Sanchez tucked Celestial Sphere behind the two early pace-setters and took up the running from 300m to win from Autumn Pride and Anizzah.
“He ran well in his two starts at Jebel Ali, and improved from each of those two starts,” said Sanchez, who was on board in all his three starts for the season.
“It was a different surface [turf] tonight and he really enjoyed that. He travelled well throughout the race and had plenty left when we kicked for home. He’s versatile and won with plenty in hand.”