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Sunday’s final meeting of the campaign at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and penultimate fixture of the whole UAE season features the Group 1 Emirates Championship and the biggest Thoroughbred race staged in the capital, the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship.
Both are over 2200m with nine declared for the AED 1million Emirates Championship, including no less than five to be saddled by Eric Lemartinel who trains for their owner, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at Al Asayl Stables.
Tadhg O’Shea has chosen to ride Mahbooba with stable companion, and last year’s winner, Abhaar the mount of Gerald Avranche and Richard Mullen aboard Abu Alabyad, third 12 months ago when the pick of O’Shea.
His choice this year, Mahbooba, won both her first two starts this season, including defeating Abu Alabyad in the prep for the HH The President Cup, but disappointed in the big race (won by Abu Alabyad in 2016) itself and subsequently in the Al Maktoum Challenge R3 at Meydan.
That was just her second dirt outing and, like in HH The President Cup, she was slowly away, seriously compromising her chances in the process.
“The start is going to be key on Sunday,” said O’Shea. “For some reason she has messed around in the stalls the last twice and subsequently missed the break which, when competing at this level, takes a lot to overcome.
“She is a very smart mare and, hopefully, can break on terms, in which case we have a big chance in a race the team at Al Asayl hold a very strong hand indeed.”
It is hard to disagree with that sentiment and, such is the strength of the Al Asayl quintet, it would be no surprise were they to fill at least the first three finishing berths.
No horse has won the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship twice but the 2015 victor, Dormello, should make a bold bid to rectify that.
Trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam for his main patron, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dormello landed this in 2015 and was fourth 12 months ago.
However, he does need to bounce back after four lacklustre Meydan efforts this season but his trainer is finishing the season in good form.
“He seems in good order and has been working well,” said Selvaratnam. “Conditions at Abu Dhabi clearly suit him and he should run a good race but the likes of Sanshaawes will be big dangers.”
Trained by Mike de Kock, who won this race in 2009 with Mr Brock, Sanshaawes actually chased home Dormello in the 2015 renewal, his only previous visit to the capital.
The mount of Bernard Fayd’Herbe, he won a 2000m turf handicap at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, when Dormello was well beaten, in February and was a close fourth in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday.
Pat Cosgrave rides his stable companion, Liquid Mercury, not seen in racecourse action since victorious in a February 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival handicap over 2400m.
Satish Seemar saddles two with Carbon Dating, the mount of O’Shea joined by stable jockey, Mullen, aboard stablemate Farrier, winner of the 1950m Listed Jebel Ali Stakes on his latest outing.
“It looks a very strong renewal,” said O’Shea. “Carbon Dating is returning to the scene of his two early season victories which is a positive.
“That said, the likes of Farrier, Dormello and especially Sanshaawes are going to be hard to beat.”
The Erwan Charpy-trained Zamaan, the mount of Jim Crowley, also merits respect in a truly fascinating renewal.