ABU DHABI // Victory in the President's Cup has eluded Eric Lemartinel, but the trainer for Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed believes his drought in the capital's richest race will end tonight.
The Frenchman has three entries in the Dh1 million race at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. Shadiyda, in the silks of his principal patron, is Lemartinel's main hope, but he also is saddling Nieshan and Samira De Carrere, for two different owners, in the Group 1 race that has drawn a maximum 14 runners for a 2,200m trip.
Shadiyda, the 2007 UAE Arabian Derby winner, has not been successful in his last three attempts, but his handler is hopeful the chestnut son of Al Sakbe can still win at the age of eight.
"He is older and knows his job better, and has been specially prepared for this race," Lemartinel said. "He runs well when fresh. We gave him a race very early in the season which he won very convincingly. Now we have just two races for him, the President's Cup and the Kahayla Classic on the Dubai World Cup night."
Lemartinel is enjoying his best season in the Emirates. He already has saddled 15 winners, matching his previous high for a season since he arrived from France more than five years ago.
"The President's Cup is a wide-open race with three previous winners and some strong young entries," he said. "I feel both Shadiyda and Nieshan will be among the strong contenders."
Shadiyda was more than three lengths behind, in fifth, in 2008 to Dynamite, third to Nirwan in 2009 and unplaced behind Jarnin last year.
Nieshan has finished third in his two starts, beaten by Dynamite in the National Day Cup over a mile and occupying the same spot in the President's Cup Prep behind the surprise winner Vite Royale.
Seraphin Du Paon, trained by Philippe Barbe for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, was the most impressive in the Prep race when he came from far behind to finish second by a short head.
"He could have won if we hadn't gotten locked up behind," said Kieren Fallon, who rode him on his reappearance. Fallon, the six-time British champion who has a retainer for owner Saeed Nasser al Romaithi, will not be up on the five-year-old horse tonight, however. He will ride Rabah De Carrere.
Eric Peslier, meanwhile, will ride Seraphin De Paon.