Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, the unofficial headquarters of Purebred Arabian racing, hosts the first meeting of the season which is a prep race for next month's Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown.
Sunday’s Rated Conditions feature over 2,200 metres has drawn the maximum allowed field of 14, including some of the seasoned Group 1 campaigners.
With a strong overseas challenge set to arrive for the Dh5 million Jewel Crown on December 4, the preparatory event provides an ideal build-up for the local runners.
Majed Al Jahouri is double handed with Shahm and Harrab, both in the silks of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed’s Yas Racing and Al Wathba Racing, respectively.
Shahm is a winner of five of his 10 starts in France. With Fernando Jara booked, the seven-year-old is returning for his second local start after finishing sixth in the Group 3 Al Ain Mile won by Somoud, also in the silks of Yas Racing.
Richard Mullen, who rode Shahm’s on that occasion, switches to Somoud, who has moved to Jean de Roualle’s stables from trainer Ahmed Al Mehairbi under whom he won five times in 10 starts.
Somoud rounded off last season on a high with three consecutive victories and De Roualle is confident the six-year-old son of Munjis will take that momentum forward.
“He did a great piece of work on Tuesday and is getting fitter all the time,” the Frenchman said.
“He is probably approaching 90 per cent fitness because he has bigger targets ahead, starting with the main race in December. The aim is to have him spot on for that, but he should run well. He is a horse I have always loved.”
Doug Watson is also double-handed in the race with RB Texas Hold Em, the choice of stable jockey Pat Dobbs, and Sauternes Al Maury under Sam Hitchcott.
“They are both in very good form,” the Red Stables trainer said. “Sauternes Al Maury is always capable of a big effort, but is not easy to predict.
“RB Texas Hold Em is a very smart Purebred Arabian and the trip will suit. We just need try him on turf.”
RB Texas Hold Em has run all his races on dirt. He is a winner of six of his 11 starts in the United States and was runner up in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 in his local start at Meydan on February 27.
The UAE champion owner, Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, with his main trainer Ernst Oertel and UAE champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea combine with AF Al Sajanjle.
“He is a horse who always runs well,” Oertel said. “It will be a first try at the 2,200m at Abu Dhabi, but he stays that far on dirt at Meydan, so that should not be an issue.”
Oertel’s charge was third the one time he tried 2,200m on dirt, in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on January 2019 won by Abdallah Al Hammadi’s Goshawke, who has not triumphed since then.
Eric Lemartinel has three entries, all in the silks of the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa.
Stables jockey Fabrice Veron rides Basmah, who is expected to improve after two Group 3 victories under her belt.
An interesting newcomer is Helal Al Alawi’s RB Frynchh Dude. The four-year-old has won twice in the US, including a Group 3 prize.