Horse racing returned to the Capital with the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club staging their first meeting of the season. All six races were confined to Purebred Arabians. The feature race, the only one on the card not restricted to horses foaled in the UAE, was a mile handicap and was won by Rafed, trained in Abu Dhabi by Frenchman Eric Lemartinel.
Having won the first race of the season at Nad Al Sheba on Thursday night, the Abu Dhabi-based handler clearly has his team in good order. "It has been a good start after an excellent season last time. We have some nice horses and hopefully the success can continue," he said. South African Chris Taylor was in the saddle. "It is nice to get a chance in these races and being so light obviously means I get more opportunities in handicaps like this," he said.
The Emirati apprentice Ahmad Ajtebi opened his account for the new campaign by winning the seven-furlong conditions race on Dareb, the horse's second career victory. This promises to be a defining season for the young jockey, who achieved prominence in the summer when he rode Regal Parade to success in the Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in the summer. "It is nice to get going and I am hoping for a good season to build on what I achieved in England where that Royal Ascot victory was very special," he said.
"It is an honour to fly the UAE flag when riding abroad and I hope to do so again. "I have been well supported and hopefully that will continue." Englishman Rod Simpson is a returnee to the training ranks and saddled his first winner from his new Al Asayl base when RS Hadyah won the concluding 1300m three-year-old fillies' race with the veteran jockey John McGinn in the saddle. "What a good start we have made: better than we could have hoped," said Simpson.
"Both mine ran well on Thursday [at Nad Al Sheba] and that has continued. But obviously it is all about winners and it is great to get the first - especially for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. "We have some nice horses so hopefully can have a good season and I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity." The opening seven-furlong maiden, contested exclusively by three-year-old debutants, was won by Wayne Smith on the Saifaldin Deeb-trained Shaheer I.
Trainer Jaber Bittar won the other two races on the card with David Badel partnering Cavalry to victory in the mile handicap, before Jesus Rosales steered RS Rasnim to land a seven-furlong maiden. email@example.com