Sir Bani Yas back in Qatar International Stakes but menacing Al Mourtajez looms

Geoffrey Riddle writes Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed's raider Sri Bani Yas is out to defend his title in the first leg of the Doha Triple Crown Purebred Arabian race on Saturday in England.

Sir Bani Yas, winning last year's Qatar International Stakes. Steve Cargill / Racingfotos.com
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GOODWOOD, ENGLAND // Elizabeth Bernard cannot see a way for Sir Bani Yas to defend his title in the Qatar International Stakes here on Saturday.

The six-year-old grey son of Amer, who is owned by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, powered to an emotional victory 12 months ago in the Group 1 event for Purebred Arabians but has not been in the same form since.

Minding is not the only star attraction on display at Goodwood, however, and it will take something special to deprive French raider Al Mourtajez his ninth victory in 12 career starts.

The 1,600-metre contest is the second-most valuable race of the day at £400,000 (Dh1.9m) and Al Mourtajez looks all but booked in for the £200,000 set aside for the winner.

“We had a virus for two months but I don’t think it affected Sir Bani Yas,” Bernard said. “I hope he runs well but the world champion also runs and I really don’t think it is possible to beat him.”

Al Mourtajez beat last season’s Dubai International Arabian day winner Gazwan in the Qatar Arabian World Cup by five lengths in October. Sir Bani Yas was third.

Following that bloodless success Al Mourtajez was named the highest-rated Purebred Arabian in the world, but then suffered only the third defeat when third to Gazwan in the Emir’s Sword in Doha in February.

Normal service was resumed in May when the six-year-old grey son of Dahess slammed Sir Bani Yas by five lengths, with Prada T labouring a full 12 lengths back in third.

Al Mourtajez has never raced over 1,600 metres previously, and with Sir Bani Yas and Prada T finishing first and second in the International last season they are both proven over the distance, surface, and perhaps most crucially, this idiosyncratic course.

Other notable runners include TM Thunderstruck, who was just touched off in the Dubai Kahayla Classic at Meydan in March, and the domestic challenge is led by Beverley Duetrom, who will saddle four in the race. Group 1 winner Lahoob will be ridden by Richard Mullen but the local trainer believes that the lightly-raced Furry, partnered by Harry Bentley, could well be the best of her quartet on the day.

The Qatar International is the first leg of the Doha Triple Crown, which includes the Qatar Purebred Arabian World Cup, staged in October at Chantilly this year and the Emir’s Sword.

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