NEWBURY // Gill Anderson had no hesitation when answering the question whether her No Risk Al Maury could surpass the sort of form that won him the last two runnings of the Dubai International Stakes. "I think it is fair to say that we have got him better this year than we have ever had him," flashed the reply from Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's principal trainer of Arabians.
It was a remarkable statement. It acted as a broadside to the nine other trainers who saddle runners in this afternoon's Group 1 feature of Newbury's International Arabian Day. As a seven-year-old, it would be understandable to suggest that No Risk Al Maury's considerable abilities were on the wane. Anderson's bullish words, however, sharpened the focus on what already looked a formidable opponent for the 13 other runners.
No Risk Al Maury has run seven times at Newbury over this afternoon's distance of 10 furlongs and is unbeaten. It is quite a record, and although Newbury is often considered to favour galloping sorts, No Risk Al Maury's success had come utilising different tactics. "The key to a good Arabian is speed, and he's got it," continued Anderson. "He's easily got enough speed to be a miler and he travels well in his races."
Some critics may point to last September's injury as a potential weakness. No Risk Al Maury suffered a hairline fracture in his pelvis. A winter of recuperation was set aside; a lazy period that often resulted in significant weight gain. Not so. No Risk Al Maury was watched like a hawk by his head lad. When Anderson unleashed No Risk Al Maury once again on the Berkshire track in the Group 2 Hawthorn International Arabian Racing Stakes last month, it took jockey Tadgh O'Shea several furlongs to settle his mount.
Despite the absence, No Risk Al Maury swept into a six-length lead inside the final furlong and was eased down to win comfortably. The victory assured Anderson that her 2008 champion Arabian was back, and that the time away had not affected his enthusiasm. "He has got a fabulous temperament which is important, as Arabians sometimes think too much about their racing. He loves his racing." That performance also highlighted the advantage Anderson enjoys in what is essentially an amateur sport in Britain.
The conveyor belt of Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Stud provides Anderson with blue-blooded Arabians, and her full-time stables in Newmarket are more than a match for the other trainers in Britain. Anderson has won three trainers' championships in succession, and she enjoys a lead of 10 winners in this year's standings. But if the domestic challenge was the least of her worries, the foreign raiders posed a significant threat. Anderson considers the multiple Group 1-winning mare, Al Dahma, as the greatest obstacle to her hat-trick, but there is also Fryvolous, trained by Rod Simpson, the Abu Dhabi trainer.
Simpson is similarly well served by the regal breeding operation of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In an echo of Anderson's sentiments about her patron, Simpson believed he was extremely privileged. "Sheikh Khalifa has a tremendously strong string of Arabians," he said from his rented stables at Lambourn. Fryvolous put a high-quality field to the sword in this year's Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night.
Since that display, the six-year-old has adjusted to the climate here and put in a devastating run when winning the Group 2 Abu Dhabi International Stakes at Newmarket 11 days ago. Anderson believed, however, that Fryvolous would need to better those performances. "I think this year's race is lot tougher than both of No Risk's previous wins. I'd even go so far as to say that it is tougher than this year's Kahayla. No disrespect to Fryvolous, but he won't have it his own way here."
Simpson remained convinced that Fryvolous had improved a lot since Newmarket, and was confident of a bold show. "It only takes the smallest things to go wrong to make you second best when racing at this level. We are fully fit and look a million dollars and I think we'll run a huge race." firstname.lastname@example.org