Final race of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak series, while Seraphin Du Paon makes an early return.
Emirati jockey hopes others will follow her
ABU DHABI // Shathra Al Hajjaj, the Emirati jockey, says she cannot wait to "experience the exciting moment" of being among the 11 riders in the final race of Sheikh Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship tonight.
She is drawn on Ragdan, a winner of two races from 10 career starts and the highest-rated horse (69) in the field for the conclusion of the 10-race series for female jockeys.
The locally bred six-year-old bay son of the 2002 Dubai Kahayla Classic winner Nez D'or is trained in Abu Dhabi by Jaber Bittar.
"There has not been a moment I haven't stopped imagining of the competition and the excitement surrounding this race," Al Hajjaj said.
"It sounds to me I have been drawn on a pretty good horse but like everyone else in the race, we will all be riding these horses for the first time. I wish I get a good run and finish in a good position."
Al Hajjaj, 28, has one career win in Oman and her best finish in the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak series - she has participated in al nine races so far - was second on Sakbain in Stockholm, Sweden.
"For me, it is the experience," she said. "It has opened up a whole new world for me. I think I have given a start for more Emirati female jockeys to follow."
The field includes eight of the winning jockeys from nine previous races of the Sheikha Fatima bint Muabarak series, which has been held around the world, in five continents.
Added to the mix are two professional female jockeys, Linda Meech of Australia and the American Jacqueline Davis, alongside Al Hajjaj, the wild card representing the host nation.
Jadey Pietrasiewicz, the Dutch rider who won the fifth race in Berlin, has been ruled out with a knee injury.
Elaborate arrangements have been made to stage the final race of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship, the highlight of tonight's six racecard in the opening meeting of the Abu Dhabi racing season at the Equestrian Club.
The inaugural Sheikh Fatima bin Mubarak EARS (European Apprentice Racing Schools) Apprentice Race and the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Cup are the two other main events of an exciting card that consists of five races for the Purebred Arabians and another for thoroughbreds.
Saeed Al Mazrooei, the Emirati, will need a career best performance from his horse Jameel W'Rsan in the apprentice race.
The seven year old is the second lowest rated horse in the field of 12 with a career best third-placed finish.
"In horse racing there is no guarantee who wins," Al Mazrooei said. "It may be the highest rated horse or an absolute outsider, but certainly the best horse on the night.
"I love this concept of holding a race for the apprentice with an international flavour. All those fellow apprentices who arrive will return with the experience and with a taste of Emirati hospitality."
Seraphin Du Paon, the winner of the President of the UAE Cup and the Dubai Kahayla Classic in 2011 and runner-up in both races last season, makes an early return in tonight’s opening race meeting in Abu Dhabi.
The six year old, now trained by Ernst Oertel for the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, will be a leading contender in the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Prestige Cup, run over 1,600-metres.
His opponents are headed by Albar Lotois, last year’s winner, and Sahib Du Clos, winner of the National Day Cup as well as the first two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge.
Tadgh O’Shea, the UAE champion jockey rides Seraphin Du Paon for the first time.
“Obviously he is a quality horse but we have not fared well in the draw  and the trip is his absolute minimum. He has some big targets down the line but we know he goes well fresh and I am looking forward to it,” O’Shea said.
Albar Lotois won this race last year, having also won on his first time out in 2010, and defends his crown for the trainer and jockey combination of Eric Lemartinel and Gerald Avranche.
“He goes very well fresh and is in good form but this looks a strong renewal,” Avranche said.
The only Thoroughbred race on the card is a cracking 1,600m handicap and Harry Bentley, fresh from a treble at Meydan on Thursday, rides last year’s winner, Mutual Force for Ali Raahid Al Raihe.
It will be tough to defend his crown though with the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Maath Gool and Devdas, trained by Oertel, heading the list of competitors.
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