ABU DHABI // Ali Haddad's fears turned to joy after Nieshan won the National Day Prep last night at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.
The owner of the multiple Group 1 winner feared for the 1,600-metre trip was too short his champion Purebred Arabian but the six-year-old chestnut son of Akbar proved him wrong.
The jockey Gerald Avranche got his tactics just right, keeping Nieshan tucked in fourth before moving clear to win by three-quarters of a length from Fryvolous, another multiple Group 1 winner.
Haddad said Nieshan only ran after a difference of opinion between himself and his trainer Eric Lemartinel. "It is actually not the right distance for this horse," Haddad said. "The problem is this horse is a champion and the highest rated  in the country.
"I was nervous because if he didn't win it would have been a very big setback to his reputation.
"I didn't want this to happen. Alhamdulillah, he won. It was the Eric's decision and for the first time in so many years I interfered on his work.
"I told him, 'Eric, please don't run him on this race'.
"He was confident though. He told me he would make me smile. And he did. Nieshan will now go for the National Day Cup.
"If all goes well, he will go for the title defence of the President of the UAE Cup and then have another crack at the Dubai Kahayla Classic."
Nieshan extended his career victories to nine in 26 starts. He was fifth in this race last season and finished third in the National Day Cup two weeks later.
All his previous wins have been over 2,000 metres, including the Dh1 million President of the UAE Cup in Abu Dhabi and the Group 1 Maktoum Challenge Round-3 at Meydan Racecourse last season.
He was runner up in the 2011 Kahayla Classic behind Seraphin Du Paon and fifth to the Qatari raider TM Fred Texas in the same race last March.
"There are no other races over the longer distances so early in the season but I was quietly confident he would run a big race because he has been training well," Lemartinel said.
Royston Ffrench set the early pace on Thakif and led until the home stretch. Avranche sat patiently in fourth place before sweeping through the field in the last 300 metres.
"He moved well but I thought I had him in front too soon and he started to idle a bit," Avranche said. "It was his first run for the season and he will improve.
"I think he needed this run because he has put on a bit since the last time I was on him on the Dubai World Cup night in March."
Derbaas, ridden by Dane O'Neill for the UAE champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, led a one-two-three for the owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid in the National Day Cup Prep for the thoroughbreds. James Doyle got Sabbaq in front in the last stride after a battle to the line to pip Lahaan under Tadhg O'Shea, to take the opener, a Maiden for UAE bred colts and geldings.
Doyle, trying to make all the running on Farooq, was denied a double half-an-hour later when Patrick Cosgrave came with a late burst to take the second race on stable companion Kerkouan to complete a double for the trainer Jaber Bittar.