ABU DHABI // Majed Al Jahouri last season scooped up all eight Group 1 prizes for Purebred Arabians in the UAE for his principal owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed.
The Emirati trainer begins his bid for a repeat of that record- setting feat with two entered in Sunday’s Race 4 National Day Cup at the capital’s racecourse.
Areem, a two-time winner of the race, spearheads the challenge as the six-year-old son of Mahabb seeks a treble, while stable companion Thakif comes out with the benefit of a run, having won the Group 3 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan event four weeks ago.
“We have the same plan for Areem, which is three races that include the National Day Cup, the Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge and the Liwa Oasis,” Al Jahouri said. “Tonight’s distance of 1,600 metres is his optimum. This race has been Areem’s first target all along and he seems in great form.
“We are happy to be drawn [in lane] one. It suits his style, as he loves to be in front. Obviously, we expect him to run a big race. To win the race three times in succession would be a great achievement by the horse.”
Silvestre de Sousa is aboard Areem, carrying the first silks of the owner, while Harry Bentley, successful on Thakif, retains the ride on Al Jahouri’s second runner. Sheikh Mansour has four entered altogether, with Sha’red and Hanoof trained by another Emirati, Yousef Al Bloushi.
But the biggest challenge is expected to come from the two-time UAE champion trainer Ernst Oertel’s trio – Shayel Aldhabi, Nymphea Du Paon and Abu Alabyad.
Shayel Aldhabi is the stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea’s choice. The locally bred mare has the benefit of an outing after finishing third to Thakif four weeks ago. The thoroughbred equivalent race is a rematch between the defending champion, Nawwaar, and Master Of War.
Ali Rashid Al Raihe has saddled the winner of the Listed race in each of the last three seasons, with Nawwaar taking the prize last year from 2012 victor and stable companion, Derbaas.
“We have a great draw in two,” said Dane O’Neill, who rides Nawwaar. “This horse just loves to bowl along in front, so we are in exactly the right stall to suit his style of running. He will have improved from that run in the prep and really should go very close.”
Derbaas will be ridden by Al Raihe’s stable jockey, Royston Ffrench, who said: “My fellow will run his usual solid race, but Nawwaar will be hard to beat.”
Master Of War’s trainer, Dhruba Selvaratnam, echoed that sentiment.
“Our horse will have improved from that run when winning the prep,” he said. “However, Nawwaar will surely have come on for the outing. He will be hard to beat, but our horse is in good form.”
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