ABU DHABI // On Sunday night, Seraphin Du Paon will take his first competitive strides towards a repeat of last season's big race double.
The son of Akbar makes his first appearance of the season at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club in the President's Cup Prep, the same path that led to so much success last term.
Ernst Oertel, the South African, who last summer took charge of the Al Asayl Stables of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE, has three horses - Seraphin Du Paon, Frynchman and Time Out - in the 13-runner conditions race over 2,200 metres.
"Seraphin is our main hope, and he is coming into this race in good shape," said Oertel, who took over the stables from Philippe Barbe.
"He has done his work well but in a race is where we can see how prepared he is. We would certainly expect him to improve for the run with his big targets further down the line. Frynchman ran very well in his only start so far this season and Time Out was a bit disappointing."
Seraphin Du Paon will be ridden by Mirco Demuro, the Dubai World Cup-winning jockey.
His brother, Cristian, partners Time Out. James Doyle will be on Frynchman.
Djanet Monlau, trained by Julio Peromingo, could be the main danger in the race. She had strong Group 1 form in Europe and has the assistance of Wayne Smith, the UAE champion jockey.
The Arabian Triple Crown Round 1, a Listed race for four year olds, is the feature event of the seven-race card, and it promises a keen contest between Mestor, unbeaten in his three starts in Abu Dhabi, and Majed Al Jahouri's trio in the silks of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed.
"He is a really nice young horse with a great attitude and has done everything we have asked of him so far," said Royston Ffrench, who has ridden Mestor in all his three victories in Abu Dhabi. "This is a real test for him and we will find out how good he really is, but we are hoping he proves up to the task."
Of the trio trained by Al Jahouri, Smith rides Naseem, a Listed winner on his penultimate start in France. Rakha, ridden by Tadhg O'Shea, is also a Listed race winner in France, and Thakif was an impressive winner at the Equestrian Club last week. Al Jahouri says Naseem and Rakha are the ones with better credentials but he does not rule out the chances of Thakif after his eye-catching course and distance victory.
"He won in a canter in his first start since arriving from France," the trainer said. "He was only winning a maiden but the manner in which he won suggests he is as good as any in this field.
"But Naseem and Rakha are the ones with better credentials. They have impressed me with their work at home, and I would expect both of them to run strong races."
4.30pm Al Reef Stables Maiden
5pm Mafraq Maiden
5.30pm Al Khaznah Maiden
6pm Arabian Triple Crown, Round One
6.30pm Wathba Stud Farm Cup
7pm President’s Cup Prep
7.30pm Al Jazira Handicap