AF Alwajel Tops GCC Cup Saturday At Sharjah

The first meeting of 2020 at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday afternoon is highlighted by the second edition of the GCC Cup, a 1700m contest afforded Prestige status and for which eight are set to face the starter. This includes two trained by Ernst Oertel for Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, whose retained jockey Tadhg O’Shea partners AF Alwajel.

The homebred 5-year-old entire has three victories to his name, all here at Sharjah where he has yet to taste defeat, albeit over 1000m and then twice at 1200m. He was beaten just under five lengths on his penultimate start in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 over 1600m on the dirt at Meydan and most recently, over 1200m on the Abu Dhabi turf, found only RB Lam Tara too good in the Group 3 Al Ruwais Stakes.

O’Shea, who could have ridden stable companion AF Motaghatres, the mount of Adrie de Vreis, for the same connections, said: “My fellow is a young horse and an exciting one. He has done very little wrong, obviously likes it at Sharjah and is in good form at home. “The 1700m at Sharjah should not be a problem for him and we go there very hopeful of a big run.”

Al Nabooda also owns AF Momtaz, to be ridden by apprentice Saif Al Balushi for Musabbeh Al Mheiri, but yet to win on dirt after two previous attempts.

For his main employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Jim Crowley rides AF Mahshoum for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Second in a maiden over this course and distance on just his third career start in December 2016, the 7-year-old is proven at Sharjah and has twice won on dirt at Al Ain.

From two Al Wathba Racing contenders Richard Mullen has opted to ride Saarookh for Majed Al Jahoori leaving Jesus Rosales to partner Shawall, to be saddled by Ana Mendez, but they all appear to face a stiff task against the exciting AF Alwajel.

The only Thoroughbred race, a 1200m handicap and final of six races, looks wide open with Crowley again riding for Sheikh Hamdan, this time for Musabbeh Al Mheiri aboard Mutawakked. A 6-year-old gelded son of Kodiac, he made a winning seasonal reappearance over 1400m at Jebel Ali at the beginning of November, but was virtually tailed off on his one previous Sharjah appearance, over this course and distance almost a year ago.

Crowley’s mount is one of three sharing the burden of top weight, the other pair including Davy Lamp, the mount of Bernardo Pinheiro and one of two maidens among the 16 runners for Rashed Bouresly who also saddles Imprison under Rosales.

Satish Seemar has his team in great form and saddles three with Mullen choosing to ride Al Mustashar over 1000m course winners One Season, the mount of O’Shea and Bedaveeya who has the benefit of apprentice Sean Kirrane’s claim. Mullen’s choice, a 5-year-old Shamardal gelding, has yet to win after ten career starts, the best of which was, arguably, when runner-up on just his second local outing over 1200m at Jebel Ali late last January. He and Mullen were, however, well beaten, over course and distance, in December on his one previous sojourn to Sharjah.

For Ahmad bin Harmash, Hucklebuck, the mount of Connor Beasley, remains a maiden after 20 starts, all in the UAE, but has finished runner-up on five occasions, most recently over 1400m at Al Ain in early January and, over 1600m, was third at the same venue on his latest outing a fortnight ago.