Tadhg O’Shea and Antonio Fresu have picked up their rivalry from where they left last season.
The two are once again locked in a battle for the UAE jockey’s championship crown even at this early stage of the campaign.
O’Shea stretched his record title win to 10 while Fresu is bidding for his first, having finished second behind the Irishman in the last two occasions. This time around, O’Shea has 20 winners for the season so far with Fresu again second, on 16.
O’Shea is booked in all 18 rides across the three meetings that kick-off with the six-race card in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, followed by Jebel Ali and Sharjah on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Fresu rides in 15, including all six in the capital.
The capital’s fixture consists of five races for the Purebred Arabians and the concluding handicap for the thoroughbreds that has drawn 12 runners with the weights headed by Desert Destination, to be ridden by Fresu for rookie trainer Osama Refai.
The Italian’s mount, a five-year-old Night Of Thunder gelding, remains a maiden after nine starts, evenly divided between Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor, Beverley Deutrom and Refai but has shown plenty of promise both locally and in the UK.
This, his first UAE turf outing and just third overall on grass, looks a good opportunity and he was runner-up over 1,600m on turf at Chepstow in August 2020.
Champion Trainer Bhupat Seemar relies on Bridesman and O’Shea, the four-year-old Exceed And Excel gelding looking to lose his maiden tag at the fifth attempt on what will be just his second turf start and fourth for current connections.
Richard Mullen partners Sugar Boy who may be approaching the veteran stage but does at least have a course and distance victory to his name, his third career success after two in the UK.
That win in the capital was back in April 2019, on his fifth start for Qaiss Aboud, who still trains him, but he has seldom threatened since although he does seem to reserve his best for the Abu Dhabi turf.
With five of the runners maidens, it does not appear the strongest of contests and of those who have actually won, Sugar Boy aside, only Razeen Dubai and Heraldic can boast a success in the UAE, but neither have won on turf.
Jebel Ali hosts A six-race all thoroughbred affair highlighted by the Jebel Ali Stakes Prep, a Dh100,000 conditions race run over 1,800m.
The Doug Watson-trained Lost Eden won this 12 months ago before winning the Listed Jebel Ali Stakes, both over the 1,950m trip.
He appears to be one to beat in the 10-runner field in which the Jebel Ali Stables trainer Michael Costa is double handed Avant Garde and Shamikh, the choice of stable jockey Jean van Overmeire.
The Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup is the feature race in the mixed six-race card at Sharjah.
The Dh100,000 race with Prestige status has Majed Al Jahouri’s Wadheha, whp looks solid with Fresu in the saddle. The Badad filly was an impressive winner of her last start over the 1,200m distance at Meydan last week.