x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirati rider Ajtebi steals the show on big-race day

Despite Gryder's impressive victory, he had already had his thunder stolen by the diminutive Ahmed Ajtebi.

Any time you win a Group One race by 14 lengths you can expect to hog the headlines. Yet Aaron Gryder, who guided Well Armed, the Eoin Harty-trained 2009 Dubai World Cup winner to victory by that record margin, had already had his thunder well and truly stolen by the diminutive Ahmed Ajtebi, who became the first Emirati jockey to capture a win on the richest night in horse racing.

In fact Ajtebi, who was not particularly well known outside of the UAE at the time, won two - both the evening's turf contests, the Dubai Duty Free and the Dubai Sheema Classic, worth US$5 million (Dh18.3m) each. Gryder did not seem to mind too much. His share of the $2.5m winner's purse that came with the World Cup would have ensured that. The knowledge that Well Armed, who had won only seven of his previous 23 starts, and was subsequently eighth on his most recent outing, had doubled Curlin's 2008 winning margin would also have helped.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, scored a brace of one-twos in the UAE Derby and the Godolphin Mile. Godolphin's Alan Garcia-ridden Regal Ransom came home ahead of the stable's favourite, Desert Party, under Frankie Dettori in the $2m UAE Derby. Earlier Dettori had ridden Two Step Salsa to victory over another Godolphin entry, Gayego, in the $1m Godolphin Mile.

The charismatic Abu Dhabi-based trainer, Rod Simpson, provided the first victory of the day, as well as tears of joy, when his charge Fryvolous, owned by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, took the $250,000 Dubai Kahayla Classic for purebred Arabians. But nothing compared to the scenes after the Duty Free, when Ajtebi, aboard Gladiatorus, trained at the time by Mubarak bin Shafya, drew clear of the field three furlongs out and won by three-and-three-quarter lengths from Presvis, under Ryan Moore.

stregoning@thenational.ae