Feature Story



By Suleiman Altaf - 

Al Ain will enjoy the privilege of hosting the 58th and final meeting of season 2023-24 on Friday with a bumper ten-race card featuring the Listed Al Ain Cup. The 2000m feature, worth AED100,000, has always attracted a top-quality field and serves as somewhat of a consolation for those missing Dubai World Cup night. This year’s renewal is no different with a string of horses rated above 100 making the field. At the helm of the proceedings is the 110-rated Abubakar Daud-trained RB Frynchh Dude (Oscar Chavez) who has enjoyed a rejuvenated campaign this term, commencing off a career-low mark of 97, however a few top performances have helped him cross the century mark again. His latest three-length defeat in the G1 Emirates Championship and a fourth placing in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge on Emirates Super Saturday have seen him regain his momentum at the highest level and makes him one of the likelier prospects to land the season’s final feature.

Just shy of that mark is trainer Majed Al Jahoori’s Faaris, ridden by Bernardo Pinheiro. After making an explosive seasonal reappearance at this venue last December, he has been tested in deeper waters in races at Meydan and Abu Dhabi – both at G1 level. Despite being unable to land the breakthrough there, he is expected to benefit from returning to Al Ain, a track where he remains unbeaten in both starts. Interestingly, Al Mahbooba (Sam Hitchcott/Ibrahim Al Hadhrami) takes her chance here as well. Missing an intended run in the final leg of the Al Ain Marathon Series, this appears to be a last roll at the dice by connections before the stumps are drawn for the season. Her only run over and around this sort of a trip came in the same race won by Faaris last December in which she was beaten six lengths. Perhaps, she can slightly bridge the gap with the help of the extra 200m on this occasion but is likely to be outpaced away from the thick of the action. Another interesting prospect is Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s Rajeh who comes into this following a dismal effort in the Emirates Championship. This event represents a sharp drop in grade though, and he appears a horse who should be suited by the sweeping bends of Al Ain. Jules Mobian picks up the ride.

The 0-90 rated handicap for the Purebred Arabians over the 1800m trip has been split into two divisions with the Eric Lemartineltrained YAS Racing-owned Rajih looking a strong candidate in the first division having impressed on his local debut with a 13-length demolition job. He was not asked to fully extend that day and is expected to improve on that as he seeks to bolster his claims for next season’s campaign.

With three thoroughbred races this weekend, it could all come down to Al Ain’s mile handicap for 0-80 rated thoroughbreds in determining the trainers’ championship, with Dubai World Cup-winning trainer Bhupat Seemar and Jebel Ali Stables’ resident handler Michael Costa tied at the time of writing. These last few races of a lengthy season could prove to be decisive if it is not all done and dusted by the end of the previous day’s Abu Dhabi fixture. Costa relies on Moojdee who looked to have needed the run on his first appearance in more than 18 months at Meydan latest over an inadequate 1200m trip. He should Seemar dispatches four with Ghost Of The Mambo boasting the services of Champion Jockey-elect Tadgh O’Shea. With a plethora of consistent runs this term, the seven-yearold gelding can perhaps bid this season goodbye on a winning note. The other notable contender is last time out winner on the turf, Poster Paint. He has proved a revelation since switching to front-running tactics and is likely to replicate the same here, but will the Al Ain dirt prove kind to him? Perfect Balance and Al Maroom complete the challenge for the yard. With the Dubai World Cup finally ticked off the list, can one of this quartet give Zabeel Stables a fitting send-off?