ABU DHABI // Saeed Al Mazrooei is confident a favourable draw will ensure he starts the new Abu Dhabi racing season in winning fashion on Sunday.
The Emirati apprentice has been drawn in stall six for the inaugural Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak EARS (European Apprentice Riding Schools) Apprentice Jockey Championship race at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, and he is very happy with the placing.
"I know the Abu Dhabi course well and gate six draw is the perfect place to be over the mile trip," said the jockey, who will ride Jameel W'Rsan.
"Coming out of this gate may give me the opportunity to get into a good position, perhaps somewhere in the middle.
"However, much will depend on the horse I ride and I have no idea of it until I get the instructions from the trainer.
"Usually these apprentice races are run at a fast pace with a lot of speed in the early part of the race. I think the race will be decided in the last two furlongs."
Jameel W'Rsan's best effort in six starts was a third-place finish behind Shaheen Ghantoot in a Maiden at the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing when trained by Jaci Wickham in Abu Dhabi.
The seven-year-old chestnut son of Monarch AH is now trained by Bakhit Al Ketbi and gets his first run for the Emirati.
"I would like to think he has improved over the summer and will put up a good show for me," Al Mazrooei added.
The trainers Ernst Oertel, Eric Lemartinel, and Majed Al Jahouri are all double-handed in the 12-runner race.
Kalahari Desert spearheads Oertel's challenge. The four year old will be ridden by the Italian Antonio Fresu and Oman's Mu'nis Al Siyabi takes the ride on Richly Blessed.
Keagan de Melo, the South African who is the most experienced of the 12 riders with 62 winners, will be partner AF Qamoos for Lemratinel while Dimitri Ibouth will be on his other runner Simbar De Loup.
Al Jahouri has the services of the American Andrew Wolfsont and the Briton Noel Garbutt to pilot Harb and Waasel respectively.
Meanwhile, Shathra Al Hajjaj, the Emirati female jockey, will start from stall three on Jaber Bittar's Ragdan in the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship, also being held on Sunday in Abu Dhabi.
The championship final, a race with prestige status run over a mile, brings together the winners of the nine races of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak series held around the world.
Al Hajjaj is competing thanks to an invitation to represent the host nation alongside two professionals jockeys, Linda Meech of Australia and the American Jacqueline Davis.
"The horses we get to ride are from the luck of the draw but I am not on a bad horse," the lady rider said.
"For me, the opportunity to ride in this race is what matters. Of course I will do my best to finish in a good position.
"Since I started riding in this race series, all the riders that participated in this race series have become friends and we are constantly in touch through the social media network.
"We are all close friends and let the best win on the night."
Meech, who has 902 winners, partners A'Nnabak W'Rsan for Wickham and Davis, a winner of 294 races, will ride Lemartinel's Ibn Battuta Monlau, one of the leading contenders for the prize.
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