ABU DHABI // The country's biggest prize for Purebred Arabians is on offer tonight at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club with Dh1 million going to the winner of The President of the UAE Cup.
And trainer Erwan Charpy says he has a contender in Versac PY, who has made remarkable progress from the handicap ranks to be a top contender for the Group 1 race.
Charpy has lined up in Sunday night's race plus the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 and the Dubai Kahayla Classic, both at Meydan Racecourse, as the main objectives for the progressive six-year-old son of Njewman.
Versac PY, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, will have to beat the past three winners - Nieshan, Seraphin Du Paon and Jarnin.
Versac PY, making his first start of the season in the prep race four weeks ago, went down narrowly to Seraphin Du Paon, the 2011 winner, and Nawfal Al Reef, a rank outsider, in a tight finish, with three-quarter lengths separating the top three past the winning post.
"His rider had some trouble in getting a clear run on that day but once he was out of it, he was making good headway and finished very well," Charpy said.
"It is a very competitive renewal but we are hopeful. This race has been his first objective from the start of the season. He certainly should improve from his first run and comes in to this race in great shape."
Paul Hanagan, the retained jockey of Sheikh Hamdan, will take the ride again from the three entries of the owner.
Versac PY, now rated 113, was a revelation last season.
He rose from the handicaps to win six of his eight starts, including the Group 1 Emirates Championship in Abu Dhabi.
Versac PY rounded off last season with a creditable fourth to TM Fred Texas in the Dubai Kahayla Classic, the Arabian showpiece on the Dubai World Cup card.
Nieshan returns from a disappointing ninth in the Prep race but the connections for the winner of the prestigious prize 12 months ago are confident that the seven year old will bounce back.
"That defeat is behind him. I would guess it was one of those days when you have a bad day in office," says Ali Haddad, the owner.
"He has trained on well since then and we are very hopeful of a big run from him."
Seraphin Du Paon returns to the track with his credentials boosted from that narrow victory in the Prep race.
"The President's Cup has always been his target," says Ernst Oertel, who is enjoying a prolific second season as trainer at the Al Asayl Stables with 23 winners already.
"He has done nothing wrong since winning the Prep race and we are hopeful he can continue and reproduce that run and win for us again."
Jarnin has struggled to rediscover the form that saw him win the Group 1 race in 2010 on his UAE debut.
He has not won in 13 starts since then and finished a length-and-a-half back in fifth place in the Prep race.
Majed Al Jahouri, the Emirati trainer who has won both the Group 1 prizes for the Purebred Arabians so far this season, is double handed with Thakif and Rakha in the Group 3 Al Ruwais Sprint, the main supporting event in the six-race card.
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