x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Derbaas makes winning start to new season

Defending National Day Cup champion takes first race of new season

Derbaas and jockey Dane O’Neill, right, edged out War Monger and jockey Sam Hitchcott to win the National Day Cup Prep race Sunday night at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. Lee Hoagland / The National
Derbaas and jockey Dane O’Neill, right, edged out War Monger and jockey Sam Hitchcott to win the National Day Cup Prep race Sunday night at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. Lee Hoagland / The National

ABU DHABI // Derbaas stayed on course to defend his National Day Cup crown for thoroughbreds by winning the Prep race on Sunday night, while Shayel Aldhabi emerged as a new favourite for the Purebred Arabian equivalent with an impressive victory at the capital’s racecourse.

Derbaas won the Conditions race before capturing the Listed prize last season, and Jilani Siddiqui, the assistant trainer, believes the seven-year-old son of Seeking The Gold will be in even better shape for his title defence on December 8.

“It will be a much harder race in three weeks’ time as we expect a stronger field for that race,” Siddiqui said. “He had to dig deep, being his first run for the season, and we would expect him to hopefully improve for his next start.”

Dane O’Neill, the retained jockey for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, had Derbaas well-placed behind the front-running War Monger, one of the four runners in the silks of the winning owner.

They were locked together in a ding-dong battle to the line from the 200-metre mark and O’Neill’s mount prevailed by a short head.

“That was the plan because we knew War Monger will bowl along in front. The race worked out pretty well for us on the night,” Siddiqui said.

Shayel Aldhabi underlined her growing reputation as a champion Arabian after leaving a quality field lagging behind.

Tadgh O’Shea had the Bibi De Cerrere filly at the back of the field before making steady headway on the final bend and then cruising along the rails to win by two and-a-half lengths from Musharab, a winner of the Group 1 Emirates Championship last season.

The result took her record to five wins in eight starts, and she looks a bright prospect for the UAE champion trainer Ernst Oertel when he lines her up for this season’s first Group 1 prize next month.

“She is the champion three-year-old filly and we thought we’ll take our chances in this race. She came out tops,” the South African said.

“Obviously the National Day Cup is her next target and we’ll see how she progresses from there.

“The best thing is she is UAE bred and just shows our breeding programme is working very well. It is great for all of us.”

O’Shea rode a treble on the night, two of which were for Oertel and in the silks of the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE.

O’Shea made all the running on-board Gali Rich to win by seven lengths from Live Rich, ridden by Xavier Ziani, and took a similar tack to win the fifth race, the Al Wathba Stud Farm Cup, on AF Rahia, trained by Ibrahim Al Hadhrami. The Emirati completed a double after Royston Ffrench rode AF Al Hazer to a thrilling victory in the second race.

The AF Al Buraq colt made late headway to pip the Italian apprentice Marc Monaghan on-board Maftoon Al Reef by a nose and Qaiter Al Reef, under Wayne Smith, a further three-quarters of a length back in third.

Jesus Rosales came with a late run on Ameer Al Reef to win the 0-75-rated handicap from Duzar (Harry Bentley), Wycked (O’Shea) and Naseem Al Reef (Smith). One and three-quarter-lengths separated the first four home.

apassela@thenational.ae