ABU DHABI // Areem has been a revelation this season, winning all three starts, including two Group 1 prizes, and the five year old is expected to underline his status as the best Purebred Arabian of the season in tonight's penultimate meeting in Abu Dhabi.
His connections have taken the easier option of running him in the Group 1 Liwa Oasis instead of last night's Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan Racecourse, a dress rehearsal for the Kahayla Classic on the Dubai World Cup card. Areem's four career victories have all been over the 1,600-metre distance and the shorter trip tonight would be more suited for a horse that likes to dictate the pace from the front.
"His main goal this season is the Kahayla Classic and the 2,000m distance is his maximum," said Majed Al Jahouri, the trainer.
"It would be too hard to run him twice in two weeks over this trip. So we have taken the simpler path. Hopefully he can run another big race and be back for a final run on the Dubai World Cup night."
Areem is one of four runners trained by Al Jahouri for owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed in the feature race. Ahmed Ajtebi, Godolphin's Emirati jockey who was on-board in all three victories, is booked again.
"He got better and better after every race I rode him and I'm looking forward to another big run from him," Ajtebi said. "He likes to bowl along in front and has a good kick towards the end. I have had the opportunity to ride a few good Arabians but this one is right on top among them."
Areem has won twice in Abu Dhabi and followed it up by claiming the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 at Meydan in January.
He also beat Neishan, who was an impressive winner of the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 last night, by six-and-a-half lengths in the National Day Cup. The main challenge for Areem is expected to come from the stable's other entries: Thakif, Rakha, and Musharab. TM Super Bird, who ran an eye-catching second behind Rakha on his UAE debut over the course and distance, and Bigg N Rich, third in the same race, are the other contenders.
Elsewhere, Ernst Oertel's Skoop, the winner of the UAE Arabian Derby, is chasing a hat-trick in only his third career start. The Njewman colt is a hot favourite in the Arabian Triple Crown Round 3, a Group 3 race for four year olds.
"He is one of the top juveniles to join the stables," the Al Asayl trainer said. "He was impressive on his first run for us and we expect him to come better from that run under the belt for this renewal."
Al Jahouri's Merzal poses the main threat on his first run in the UAE. The Bibi De Carrere colt was beaten by a neck by Skoop back in France and since then has won once and placed twice. "It is his first race in more than five months since arriving from France but he is in great shape and has impressed us in his work," Al Jahouri said.
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