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Sunday’s final meeting of the season in Abu Dhabi was highlighted by the Group 1 Emirates Championship and Mahbooba led home a 1-2 for Al Asayl Stables.
Eric Lemartinel was responsible for no less than five of the nine runners in the race for HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and jockey Tadhg O’Shea picked the right one, sending Mahbooba for home on the home turn, sweeping past stable companion Abhaar, winner of the same race last year.
O’Shea and Mahbooba were soon clear with the race in safe keeping and it was left to Nashmee and Harry Bentley to chase them home, though ultimately well beaten.
“The team at Al Asayl had a strong hand obviously and it is a great way to finish another good season,” said O’Shea. “I am the lucky one to be able to ride all these good horses but it is a real team effort.
“Mahbooba is a very good mare as she has proved again here with an impressive display and she was much happier back on turf after trying dirt last time.
“She is going to be exciting next season as she is getting better we hope.”
The biggest Thoroughbred race of the season in the capital, the 2200m Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship, produced one of the best finishes of the whole campaign with a host of challengers lining up behind Sharpalo.
Soon in front under Colm O’Donoghue, Sharpalo kept on responding to his jockey’s urgings in the straight and gamely seeing off determined bids from both Sanshaawes and Carbon Dating.
However, just as he looked set to claim an ultra-game victory, Jim Crowley, riding for his main employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, appeared down the outside on Zamaam with the horses flashing across the line in unison.
The verdict went to Zamaam, saddled by Erwan Charpy and registering a second victory of the season.
“This horse has been very consistent and deserved to win a big prize,” said Charpy. “He is a horse we have always really liked but have not always been able to get him in the races we wanted.
“He did win at Meydan and the Dubai World Cup Carnival this year as well though and Jim gets on particularly well with him.”
The first of the main races was the 2400m Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown R3 and Al Zahir, trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi for Sheikh Hamdan, made it two victories from as many local starts, initiating a double for the owner and Crowley.
Comfortably victorious in the 2200m Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown R2 on his first UAE start a fortnight ago, he was always travelling well again here but, with 300m left, suddenly had nowhere to go under Crowley.
They had to wait for a gap but, once it appeared, his mount responded in style, denying Darius Du Paon who had also chased him home two weeks ago.
“We were in a pocket as the pace kept slowing and then found ourselves boxed in entering the straight,” said Crowley. “I was always going very well though and knew, once there was a gap, he would pick up. He quickened very nicely to actually win pretty easily in the end.
“Hopefully he is going to be a nice horse for next season as he seems to be improving.”
In landing the spoils they broke the track record, a particularly noteworthy achievement given their interrupted progress early in the straight.
Eleven went to post for the UAE Arabian Derby, a 2200m Prestige contest, but ten may as well have stayed at home with Omani raider, Maisoor, finishing in splendid isolation.
Now unbeaten after nine starts, six in Muscat on dirt and three here on the Abu Dhabi turf, he has won over as short as 1200m but stayed this longer trip well.
Trained by Said Al Badi, the only horse the trainer has campaigned locally, he was ridden for the first time by Adrie de Vries.
“He is a very good horse and has shown that again,” said De Vries. “I was never concerned throughout the race and it was a very easy win from a potentially very smart performer.”
Despite missing the break in the opening 1400m maiden, Chris Hayes was soon able to get to the front aboard Saayif Al Arab and the pair stayed there, just holding the late challenge of Duc De Faust.
Trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam and having his eighth career start, all bar one in the UAE, the winner had been a decent fourth over the same course and distance on his last start, two weeks ago.
“He has plenty of ability but is a bit of a character,” said Hayes. “He actually managed to dislodge me after the line last time and he is a bit of a thinker.
“I was keen to be positive on him today as we know he stays this trip and it all worked out well in the end.”
The meeting and Abu Dhabi campaign concluded with a 1400m conditions contest and Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda supplied the first three home with horses he also bred.
O’Shea produced the Ernst Oertel-trained AF Maher to lead close home, denying stable companion AF Al Almaa and AF Ssayeb who was saddled by Maria Ritchie.
The dramatic success was enough to clinch the UAE’s owners’ championship for Al Nabooda, with Doug Watson and Richard Mullen having earlier been confirmed as Champion Trainer and Jockey respectively.