Dubai (February 20, 2021) – Racing at Al Ain on Saturday was highlighted by the Second Leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series, a 4100m handicap in which just five went to post, but it produced a dramatic conclusion with Richard Mullen and Ajjaj thwarting RB Grynade, the mount of Fabrice Veron, in the final 25m.
Of the quintet, only top weight and eventual third Balad Al Reef did not lead at some point with Jeemi setting the early tempo, headed by Hareer Al Reef with about 800m remaining, but soon relinquishing that advantage to RB Grynade. As Mullen started to challenge, about 350m from home, RB Grynade drifted across his path, forcing Ajjaj to check. Mullen was able to pull him around his errant rival and his mount responded well, staying on strongly to lead where it mattered.
Trained on the Al Ain track by Jean de Roualle, the homebred 10-year-old entire, has now won five times, all in the UAE and was winning this race for a second time, having also landed the prize in 2018 when he followed up in the 5100m concluding leg of the series.
De Roualle said: “That was really pleasing because he had traffic problems and was stopped, so over such a long distance, it takes a lot to get momentum going again.
“This horse is ten years young and in Richie Mullen we have the perfect jockey for these horses; he has ridden a marvelous race today and we are delighted he rides our horses.”
The fixture kicked off with a 2000m maiden for which a capacity field of 15 faced the starter, but very few were ever able to land a blow with several ruining their chances with very slow starts. Tadhg O’Shea and AF Sadn were the early leaders, but weakened quickly about 750m from home at which point Jouna and Royston Ffrench grabbed the initiative with Harturo Du Faust for company, the remainder soon well beaten.
The latter, ridden by Omani apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi for Abu Dhabi Racing and Helal Alalawi, took over about halfway down the long straight. Ffrench’s mount tried to battle back, but had to settle for second with the winner pulling away in the final 150m. Third on debut, at the end of October, over 1400m here at Al Ain and his best previous placing, the 4-year-old colt was opening his account at the fifth attempt.
Alalawi, who trains in Al Ain, said: “He was staying on over 1400m, 1600m and then 1800m, so we hoped the extra distance would be in his favour and, thankfully, he has relished it.”
O’Shea may have been out of luck in the opener, but made no mistake in the following 1600m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE, another full field and, again, very few of the 15 ever threatened. As has been the case in a lot of Al Ain races, this year in particular, the race developed into a duel with O’Shea aboard AF Musannef battling throughout the final 575m with Taajer, the pair both maidens after 26 combined starts!
Trained by Ernst Oertel for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, AF Musannef only managed to get his head in front in the dying strides, improving on two second and a third placing in his previous 11 attempts. The homebred 5-year-old entire posted those placings this season and he has actually now been placed in all four dirt outings this season, his one failure having come on the Abu Dhabi turf.
O’Shea said: “He has been knocking on the door this season and deserved a win, especially the way he has really battled for me. It was a good and the runner-up deserves a lot of credit also.”
Ninety minutes later connections were celebrating a double after the hard fought success of dirt debutant AF Alajaj in a 1600m handicap for horses in private ownership. Sent straight to the front by O’Shea, the homebred 4-year-old colt won his first career start, over 1400m on the Abu Dhabi turf just over a month ago and was then far from disgraced when sixth behind the imperious Hameem in the 1600m Listed Arabian Triple Crown R1, also in the capital.
Here he was harried throughout the final 500m by Al Mansour NF who, as hard as he tried, just could not get past.
Winning trainer, Oertel said: “Some of my horses do not run as well here as they do in Abu Dhabi, but he has coped well with it and he is a nice, young, horse.
“We will probably go back to Abu Dhabi for his next start and have another crack at Hameem.”
Doug Watson does not train that many Purebred Arabians, but he is a dab hand with them and he saddled RB Blyng who turned a 1600m conditions race into a procession under Sam Hitchcott for Byerley Racing. Having just her seventh career start and second in the UAE, after a fruitless turf debut at Abu Dhabi in early December, the 5-year-old mare has now won three of her seven career appearances, two over 1600m, after a pair of victories in the US, the native land of both herself and the handler. In front from a long way out, she scooted clear with about 450 remaining and Hitchcott never had a moment of concern thereafter.
He said: “That was a good win and I was always happy. She travelled well, enjoyed bowling along in front and then put the race to bed well when I asked her.”
Class prevailed in the finale, a 1000m conditions contest, Hitchcott completing a double on the card, this time combining with Majed Al Jahoori aboard Rawaa, also completing a brace for Yas Racing.
A 6-year-old homebred, the mare was having just her eighth career start and trebling her win tally having won her first two career appearances, over 1200m at Sharjah, then over this Al Ain 1000m. Her three previous outings were in the 1600m Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 on dirt at Meydan, the 1200m Group 3 Al Ruwais on the Abu Dhabi turf and, back on dirt at Meydan, the 1400m Group2 Mazrat Al Ruwayah. She readily took full advantage of this much easier assignment.
AF Mozhell and Saif Al Balushi, a second Omani apprentice to register a victory on the card, routed 11 opponents in a 1000m handicap for Khalifa Al Neyadi who both owns and trains the 6-year-old entire. Bred by Al Nabooda, this was a third career success for the horse and second this season, adding to a 1000m Sharjah success early last month. Having chased eventual runner-up Muhaymin and Abdul Aziz Al Balushi throughout the first half of the race, AF Mozhell shot clear and was never going to be caught.
Dubai Racing Club Press Release and Photo