Jim Crowley was left with a tough decision to make on which horse to ride in the Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night after Al Zahir won the Group 1 Emirates Championship in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The former British champion jockey will have to decide between Al Zahir and Barnamaj, winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2, to steer in the Kahayla Classic, the purebred Arabian showpiece on World Cup night.
Ali Rashid Al Raihe, the trainer of both horses belonging to Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid for whom Crowley is the retained first jockey, is likely to run the two horses on on March 31.
“After this race, I think he deserves to be there,” the Grandstand Stables trainer following Al Zahir’s victory in the Dh1 million race run over the 2,200-metre distance.
Crowley had to deal with the widest draw of the 16 runners, but settled Al Zahir in middle of the pack and made smooth headway before going clear with 600m remaining to win by five and-a-half lengths from Jean de Roaulle’s newcomer Thabit and the Eric Lemartinel-trained Abu Alabyad.
“Looking at the race and drawn inside the widest Gate No 16 and having to go wide on the first bend, he’s such a class horse to get into a nice position the whole way around and won very well indeed,” Crowley said.
“He’s a good horse, a super horse, but it all depends on how he handles the dirt at Meydan. He has to take his chance in the Kahayla Classic. I have a tough decision with Barnamaj who loves the dirt.”
Al Raihe believes Al Zahir can handle both the turf and the dirt, and that both horses can challenge for the prize.
“Al Zahir has proved he’s a very good horse on the turf and I’m sure he can handle the dirt if the kick-back can be avoided,” he said.
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Crowley and Al Raihe were completing a double after Al Mahshoum made all the running to clinch the UAE Arabian Derby.
De Roualle’s Dahham, ridden by Richard Mullen, was second ahead of Abdallah Al Hammadi’s Al Tiryaq with Sam Hitchcott atop.
Fernando Jara rode a double by taking the Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown Round 3 for trainer Al Hammadi and the concluding Maiden on Ernst Oertel’s AF Esnad.
Adrie de Vries aboard Mike de Kock’s Light The Lights scooped the solitary prize for the thoroughbreds, the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship, from Al Raihe’s Janszoon and Ahmad Al Harmash’s Sharpalo.
“He was the best horse in the race,” De Vries said of the six-year-old son of Western Winter who was the highest rated (111) in the 14-runner field.
“He was nice and relaxed, the pace was good and we bid our time and then the gaps opened for him to get in front.
“Janszoon was finishing well but the winning post was just ahead for us to have the race under our control.”
Dahes D’Arabie under Pat Cosgrave won on his first local start for Helal Al Alawi’s 31st winner of the season. AF Maher with Antonio Fresu onboard took the Wathba Stallions Cup for Oertel.
4.30pm: Maiden; Dh80,000; 1,200m.
Winner: Dahess D’Arabie (horse), Pat Cosgrave (jockey), Helal Al Alawi (trainer).
5pm: UAE Arabian Derby Prestige; Dh150,000; 2,200m.
Winner: AF Mahshoum, Jim Crowley, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
5.30pm: Abu Dhabi Championship (TB) Group 3; Dh380,000; 2,200m.
Winner: Light The Lights, Mike de Kock, Adrie de Vries.
6pm: Emirates Championship Group 1; Dh1,000,000; 2,200m.
Winner: Al Zahir, Jim Crowley, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.
6.30pm: Arabian Triple Crown Round 3 Group 3; Dh300,000; 2,400m.
Winner: Goshawke, Fernando Jara, Abdallah Al Hammadi.
7pm: Wathba Stallions Cup Conditions; Dh100,000; 1,600m.
Winner: AF Maher, Antonio Fresu, Ernst Oertel.
7.30pm: Maiden; Dh80,000; 1,600m.
Winner: AF Esnad, Fernando Jara, Ernst Oertel.