DUBAI // Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's purebred Arabian string hit form last night, with a one-two-three in the opening Dh110,000 conditions race.
Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager, Ali al Muhairi, said the three runners would be campaigned for the Maktoum Challenge, with the Kahayla Classic, the Arabian equivalent of the Dubai World Cup, as the ultimate goal on March 27.
Santhal, trained by Erwan Charpy and running under Willie Supple, the rider, put in a brave effort from the front to secure the win ahead of Paris Gagner under Tadhg O'Shea.
Nirwan was third for Richard Hills, although he was carrying more weight than his rivals.
The second and third-placed horses are both trained by Doug Watson and just two lengths separated all three in the 1,900m race.
"It's a good start for World Cup day," said al Muhairi who reports the performance of every Sheikh Hamdan runner to the owner.
"This was a job well done and we will look at how they perform in the Maktoum Challenge.
"Santhal showed us something different today.
"He normally doesn't like to run from the front.
"He had a small injury after his last run but I think the track suits him."
Charpy was recording his second win of the season.
"We needed that," said the master of Green Stables.
"Last year he was never quite right but he did that well.
"He has already had a run and the others may have needed the outing."
Jockey Harry Bentley claimed the second race of the night, the Attijari Points Reward Program, when Africanis powered ahead of the rest for trainer, Musabah al Muhairi.
Al Muhairi also won the Al Dana Wealth Management conditions race with Inestimable.
Bentley, who is apprenticed to Satish Seemar this winter, has had a sensational season so far, claiming four winners.
"I thought I might get one or two rides over here," said Bentley.
"To get four wins already is better than I ever imagined."
It was a good day for the EERC racing syndicate with Mark to Market finding his way through traffic to claim the collective's first win of the season by a head in the one-mile Attjiri al Islami maiden.
"Now we've had a winner at every racecourse in the UAE," said Justin Long, from the syndicate.
"It was a win we needed. He ran well last time over seven furlongs and I thought he'd get eight, but he nearly didn't get there. Better to win by a head than not at all though."
Ted Durcan won the CBD World Mastercard on Trois Rois, trained by Ismail Mohammed, while Reynaldothewizard made it two from two in the Attijari al Islami Visa Infinite Card for Richard Mullen and Seemar.