AF Alwajel’s impressive win in the Group 2 Liwa Oasis in Abu Dhabi on Sunday has left Tadhg O’Shea with a tough decision to make in choosing the right horse for his Dubai Kahayla Classic title defence.
The Irishman rode AF Maher to victory in the silks of Khalid Khalifa Al Naboodah in the Arabian showpiece event on Dubai World Cup night 12 months ago, but the seven-year-old has not been seen in public since.
“It’s very difficult to leave out last year’s [Kahayla] winner, I would imagine, but [AF Alwajel) is improving at a rate,” the seven-time UAE champion jockey said when asked of the horse he would choose to ride in the Dubai Kahayla Classic.
“AF Maher is bursting at home. He had a little setback and missed the Round-3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge [last week]. He missed a couple of days training but with a high class horse like that you can’t take any chances.
“It’s going to be difficult with this fellow rapidly improving. I always felt he’s a better horse on the dirt. He certainly trains like a winner at home and 10 furlongs causes no problems.
“AF Al Sajanjle is the other and he’s a solid campaigner but my choice would lie between AF Maher and AF Alwajel.”
Fabrice Veron, bidding for a big race double, led on RB Money To Burn for much of the 1,400m distance on the night, but O’Shea’s mount had enough left in the tank to coast home by a length and three-quarter on the run-in.
“He’s a very good Arabian and we always had him in high regards,” O’Shea said of AF Alwajel. “He’s very lightly raced. He had only seven starts, and has won half of them and have been placed in the rest of them.
“We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed from now as Ernst [Oertel, the trainer] and his team, and Mr Al Naboodah has a very strong team for the Kahayla Classic. I have quite a big problem in choosing the right one.”
Oertel echoed his jockey’s sentiments regarding AF Alwajel.
“Honestly he’s a good horse and one of the best ones I have there,” the South African said. “I would like him to go to the Kahayla. He’s even better on the sand and his dame-line; he should stay the [10-furlong] distance.”
Veron had earlier made all on Eric Lemartinel’s Basmah to win the Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown, but AF Alwajel denied them a double at the Abu Dhabi meeting.