Racing Season Begins in the UAE
Quickly away under Paolo Sirigu, sporting the second colours of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Kasb was the overall leader until just after halfway when headed by Riflescope, racing on the other side of the track.
Sirigu’s mount found plenty for pressure though, regaining the initiative 200m from home and always looking likely to hold the sustained challenge of Riflescope.
The winner was opening both his UAE account, at the eighth attempt, as well as his dirt one, trying the surface for a sixth time.
He missed the whole of last season so his trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, deserves a lot of credit for having him ready to win such a competitive heat after his 595 day absence.
Sirigu said: “He is a very fast horse, as we saw there and the boss told me to just let him jump and stride on.”
“We had a nice low weight and I just basically aimed him in a straight line from our draw in the centre.”
Al Rayhi completed a double in the finale, a 1400m handicap, with stable jockey, Tadhg O’Shea, employing similar tactics on Najm Suhail who was soon at the head of affairs.
Tackled on several occasions, he fended off numerous challengers and had enough left to hold off stable companion, Kalkrand, to supply the trainer a 1-2.
O’Shea said: “That was a great result for the boss and team; it has been a pretty good day for Grandstand Stables and a nice way to start the season.
“I ride this horse most mornings so know him well and it was a brave effort under a big weight.”
Earlier owner HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum and his principal trainer Salem bin Ghadayer made the perfect start to their new campaigns, saddling both first and second in the opening 1950m handicap in which Xavier Ziani was probably never headed aboard Aslan.
In his slipstream throughout was Royston Ffrench aboard stable companion Untold Secret and he looked the only real danger when Ziani’s mount quickened the pace about 500m from home.
However, it was soon clear Aslan was not for catching and he kept on well, with Untold Secret just holding on to second from a staying on Tradesman.
Ziani said: “I have a new job with Mr Bin Ghadayer and His Highness so could not have made a better start.
“This horse runs well fresh and is keen to get on with things so I was happy to go to the front and, luckily, we were left alone.”
“I know he stays well so was happy to wind up the pace early in the straight and he ran all the way to the line.”
The trainer completed a double, landing the 1000m maiden with Arroway, a juvenile debutant receiving weight from the 14 older horses he faced.
Royston Ffrench, out of luck aboard Untold Secret, gained compensation here and said: “That was a good performance because he was green throughout most of the race.
“He is only small but has a big engine and it has been a great day for the whole team.”
Only six went to post for the the 1600m handicap but from just after halfway, there was only one likely winner with Pat Dobbs sat motionless on Resonant with his rivals hard at work.
Saddled by Doug Watson and making his dirt debut, on his sixth UAE outing, Resonant soon led, seemingly skipping over the surface before powering up the hill to record a straightforward victory.
“He is a nice horse and one we have always liked,” explained Watson. “We were keen to try him here to see if he handled the surface so this gives us plenty of options throughout the season.”
Trainer, jockey and the horse’s owner, Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, looked set to complete a double when Denzille Lane led inside the final 400m of a 1200m handicap, only to be headed at the 200m pole by Shillong.
Pat Cosgrave found a lovely gap on the rail to make what proved a telling challenge on Shillong, trained by Helal Al Alawi. The four year old ran on strongly to record a second career victory, both over course and distance under Cosgrave.
Al Alawi said: “It is always nice to get the initial winner on the board so to do it today, at the first meeting, is brilliant.
‘This horse was improving last season and we think has continued to do so, hopefully he can build on this and have a good season.”