x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Darej gets maiden UAE win with O'Neill on top

Jockey O'Neill rides two winners while O'Shea goes one better to claim hat-trick.

Dane O'Neill, on Darej, won the opening race at the Sharjah racecourse before riding to victory on Ameer Al Sraya in the second.
Dane O'Neill, on Darej, won the opening race at the Sharjah racecourse before riding to victory on Ameer Al Sraya in the second.

SHARJAH // The season's leading owner, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, had a one-two finish in the only thoroughbred race at Sharjah yesterday afternoon, a 1,200m handicap, with Dane O'Neill claiming the victory on Darej.

Trained by Doug Watson, the four year old, given a positive ride by O'Neill, was making it third time lucky in the UAE and has now won two of his six career starts.

Watson said: "He has made virtually every yard of the running which was the plan and we were keen to try him over 1,200m as that was the trip he won in England. We were not worried about the dirt and I imagine we will keep him sprinting now."

He was chased home by Serhaal, under Paul Hanagan, the owner's first jockey.

O'Neill was then involved in another one-two but this time it was the trainer Tony Manuel saddling the first two home with the jockey completing a double on Ameer Al Sraya, who denied stable companion AS Alkhattaf in a 2,000m maiden.

Manuel said: "We knew we had two decent chances as they had both shown they handle the track. As they turned for home they always looked in control and it is a great result for the yard."

Adrie de Vries was the runner-up and later produced Helouane with a perfectly timed challenge to win the only Purebred Arabian handicap on the card for the trainer Jaber Bittar.

With 50 metres of the 1,700m race to run, any one of seven could have won and Helouane still had five rivals ahead of him, but he picked up well to lead on the line.

The rest of the card was dominated by the champion jockey Tadhg O'Shea who rode three winners, and was seen at his best on the Gill Duffield-trained AF Hasba, who made virtually every yard of the running in a 1,700m maiden.

O'Shea sent the four year old for home from about 600m out and said: "We wanted to be handy with her and she was enjoying it out in front. She responded well when I asked her and ran all the way to the line."

He then won a second 1,700m maiden on Callateral for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, and the trainer Ernst Oertel and again O'Shea made a decisive move, this time as the runners swung into the short straight.

O'Shea said: "I was keen to get on with things as we know he stays further and once I was clear I was never likely to be caught."

The jockey completed a good afternoon by steering Richlore to a cosy victory in the concluding 1,700m conditions race for the same owner and trainer.

O'Shea joked: "The 1,700m seems to be my lucky course and distance today!"