Newbury, England// Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s vintage summer continued when Al Hibaab spearheaded a treble for the Minister of Finance, trainer Gillian Duffield and jockey Ted Durcan at Dubai International Arabian race day yesterday.
Al Hibaab won the Shadwell Stud Dubai International Stakes, while Salaama won the Emirates Equestrian Federation International Stakes, the opening Group race of the afternoon.
Sheikh Hamdan kept up a long-standing tradition when his colours were carried to victory for the ninth year in succession by Azizi in the Royana Hotels And Resorts Premier Handicap Stakes.
He leads the Purebred Arabian owners’ championship in Britain, and with Taghrooda and Mukhadram producing the goods in the thoroughbred sphere, these are heady times for the high-profile owner.
Taghrooda was bred by Shadwell, and Al Hibaab and Azizi were bred by the French arm of Sheikh Hamdan’s breeding empire. Mirza Al Sayegh was quick to confer credit on his employer.
“These wins today are the culmination of years of work headed by him, directed by him and financed by him,” said Al Sayegh, director of the Sheikh’s office.
“They are his horses, trainers and jockeys, and his mission here is to see the UAE flag fly on his day. To see his horses winning makes him very happy.
“The form of Taghrooda and Mukhadram actually makes him more anxious, as he has to now decide where they all run and what is best for them.”
Al Hibaab became Sheikh Hamdan’s 12th winner of the Dubai International Stakes and caused a minor upset by dislodging the defending champion, Djet Taouy. All day there had been a vicious headwind blowing down the Newbury straight, and it took too many riders too many races to understand the importance of staying out of it.
Frenchman David Michaux was one, and he gave Djet Taouy far too much daylight too early after Nerbah, ridden by Steve Drowne, had led over Al Anga and jockey Harry Bentley.
Durcan, a former UAE champion jockey, tucked in Al Hibaab for as long as he could before they went on their bid for glory up the rail.
“I’d be happy to have one winner, but to have three is just great,” Durcan said. “I’ve had hat-tricks before, but never on this card. It’s fantastic.”
The undercard was dominated by Julian Smart and Bentley, who struck with Djainka Des Forges in the Group 1 Hatta International Stakes and Taraf in the Emirates NBD International Stakes.
Both horses are candidates for the €700,000 (Dh3.45m) Qatar Arabian World Cup at Longchamp in October.
Djainka Des Forges has made a habit of being unfortunate, but the five-year-old mare needed no assistance from lady luck when she ran out a six-length winner of the 2,000-metre contest from old rival Samima.
“Of all the horses I train, she deserves most to win a Group 1,” Smart said. “She was beaten in France last year and was unlucky. I took her to Dubai for the Kahayla Classic and she was unlucky. I took her to France this year and she was unlucky. She is always a bridesmaid, but this is her time.
“She would be one of the best horses I have in my yard.”
Smart had a frustrating afternoon 12 months ago when several of his highly fancied runners were turned over. In Bentley, however, he had a jockey who had cottoned on to the strong headwind, and the young rider produced Taraf fast and late to win by two and a quarter lengths from Sheikh Hamdan’s Djakbar Des Forges.
Smart may run Taraf in the UK Arabian Derby her next month, but the lure of Longchamp’s riches are likely to prove too much. He could be well represented in Paris, where he could also run his colt Al Atique.
“I was worried about the fact that there were only a handful of runners, especially as the headwind was so strong that it slowed down these small Arabians,” Smart said of Taraf’s win.
“Harry said he was worried for a couple of strides, because she didn’t show an immediate response, but she’s more of a galloper, anyway.”
Al Mouhannad followed up last year’s win in the Jebel Ali Racecourse Zaabeel International Stakes under French rider Jean-Baptiste Hamel. The five-year-old mare showed blistering pace 12 months ago to win the Group 1 event, and her trademark turn of foot settled the issue again when she charged down the centre of the course to deny Aden and Bentley by a length and a half.
It was the 11th time in the past 13 years that a French raider secured the £12,500 purse for the winner and trainer Christian Baillet, who stated that his charge will return to defend her crown next year.
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