Al Zahir claimed the biggest prize of his career by finishing first in the Dh1.2 million Group 1 President’s Cup in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The five-year-old chestnut son of three-time Dubai Kahayla Classic champion Madjani ran brilliantly in the 2,200-metre race to give Ali Rashid Al Raihe his second win of the evening.
Jockey Jim Crowley raced Al Zahir along the rails before moving into the lead at the 800m mark. Thereafter the pair proved too strong for the rest of the field, eventually beating Jean de Roualle-trained Ziyadd by more than four lengths. Dahham finished a further length-and-a-quarter behind in third place.
Crowley explained his strategy after continuing a 100 per cent success rate aboard Al Zahir. “We were in a nice spot for most of the 2,200m trip and when the gaps appeared we moved in to the lead,” the British Champion Jockey said.
“That wasn’t the plan, but when the opportunity came we took [the] chance and went for it. He certainly seems to love the turf and won pretty well at the end.”
Al Raihe was also thrilled by the result, having backed Al Zahir to do well in this category. “He won his first two local starts in Abu Dhabi over the same distance and a bit further," the Emirati trainer said.
"His first run for this season over 1,600m seemed a bit too sharp, and the next two were on the dirt at Meydan [Racecourse in Dubai]. I don’t think he doesn’t like the dirt but he doesn’t seem to like the kick-back.
"Anyway, it’s for his owners [Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid] to decide where he goes next. It can be directly to the Kahayla Classic on the Dubai World Cup night [on March 31].”
Last year's winner Loraa, also trained by De Roualle, could finish only in middle of the 16-horse field.
De Roualle drew some consolation when Rmmas, under Richard Mullen, claimed the Group 3 Al Ruwais over the sprint distance of 1,200m. Qader, ridden by Xavier Ziani, won the second race, a handicap for horses rated 67-92.
Sam Hitchcott on board the Ibrahim Aseel-trained ES Ajeeb won the Listed Arabian Triple Crown Round 1. Mullen rode another De Roualle runner - Munowra - to second place, and Fernando Jara piloted Goshawke to third.
Hitchcott, who rode the Big Easy colt last time in Sharjah in only his second career start, had the race well under his control as the field reached the home stretch.
“He’s the best Arabian I have ridden,” Hitchcott said. “He’s such a big horse and so much power in him, he had the rest of the field well behind him at the halfway mark.”
Harry Bentley rode a treble on the night for three different trainers.
He took the opener on ES Fatak, the first of the two winners for Al Raihe, the Wathba Stallions Cup atop Helal Al Alawi’s Dassana Da and the concluding handicap for thoroughbreds on board Tadween for Bahraini trainer Fawzi Nass.