ABU DHABI // Seraphin Du Paon, the winner last season of the country's two biggest races for Purebred Arabians, will have to beat an impressive line-up on Sunday to repeat his win in the Dh1 million President of the UAE Cup.
The six-year-old chestnut son of Akbar, trained by Ernst Oertel for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has prepared just as he did before he won the Group 1 race in Abu Dhabi and the Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night.
Mirco Demuro, the 2011 Dubai World Cup-winning jockey who won the Prep race on Seraphin Du Paon, retains the ride for tonight's meeting at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.
"I was very impressed by him when he won the prep race and he felt like a very good horse," said the Italian. "Hopefully, he will be hard to beat."
Oertel, who took charge of the Al Asayl Stables last summer, said The President of the UAE Cup has been his first target.
"He would have come from his first start and we are very hopeful," the South African said. "If all goes well he will also be back to defend his Meydan crown at the end of March but we will get [Sunday's race] out of the way first."
As many as eight horses could be classed as genuine contenders to win the race.
Saifaldin Deeb, one of the longest-serving trainers in the UAE, is confident about the chances of Sahib Du Clos.
"He is the best Purebred Arabian I have trained and, for me, he is the best currently in training," said the Lebanese, who has won the coveted prize three times - with Al Qahir in 1993, Dynamite in 2008 and Jarnin two years later.
"It is a wide-open race for a long, long time. Seraphin is the favourite and he deserves that tag having won the two biggest prizes for the Arabians in the country, and winning his first start this season.
"But I really fancy the chances of my horse. He had some problems last season but he has come from that and is in great shape. He has been working well and has won his last two starts very impressively."
Sahib Du Clos is tackling the 2,200-metre trip for the first time and Deeb has no doubts about his stable star lasting the distance.
"In fact he will be better over the longer distance," he said. "He is a bit of a hold-up horse and has a good turn of foot for a strong finish. Seraphin runs similarly and it will be a very exciting contest."
Royston Ffrench, who has ridden Sahib Du Clos in all three of his career victories, said the six-year-old bay son of Kerbella had done all that was asked of him this season and is still improving. "It is a big step up in trip but hopefully he will run another big race," he said.
Nieshan was second to Seraphin Du Paon in the Dubai Kahayla Classic and Rabah De Carrere filled the same spot behind him in this race last year. They both return for the rematch after confidence-boosting victories.
Jarnin, the 2010 winner trained by Deeb, is one of the three entries of Majed Al Jahouri, along with Rami and Musharab, who will be making their UAE debuts.