x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Evening belongs to Al Raihe

Trainer presides over four victories and fellow handler Seemar and jockey Ffrench also have memorable outings in the Dubai races at Meydan Racecourse.

Royston Ffrench, the jockey, was the man in form at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on Thursday night, clinching three wins.
Royston Ffrench, the jockey, was the man in form at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on Thursday night, clinching three wins.

DUBAI // Ali Rashid al Raihe, the reigning champion trainer, appears to be a man with the Midas touch after presiding over four winners at Meydan Racecourse's opening meet on Thursday night.

Al Raihe shared the night's pickings with last season's third-placed trainer, Satish Seemar, who claimed a double in the opening two races. But the evening belonged to Al Raihe. The Emirati saddled 30 winners last season and with the new campaign just three meetings old, he is already seven wins to the good and leading the trainers' championship from Seemar, who has three.

The winners' enclosure looked like a roll-call of Al Raihe-trained charges as inmates from Grandstand Stable claimed races three, four, five and six.

Al Raihe may have been among the trophies from the start of the season, but his premier jockey, Royston Ffrench, got his first three winners on the board on Thursday night. He is now on equal footing at the top of the table with Richard Mullen and Tadhg O'Shea.

Ffrench guided Il Grande Maurizio to victory in the 1,600m handicap and was astride the strong-finishing Rochdale in the penultimate contest, a 2,000m handicap. He then followed up with a comfortable victory for Zain Shamardal in the final race, a handicap over 1,900m.

Tadhg O'Shea provided Al Raihe's other win when the Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid-owned Alazeyab overcame top weight to claim race four, a 1,200m handicap.

Jailani Siddiqi, assistant to Al Raihe, said that the Grandstand Stables team was very pleased with their winning start to the season.

"We have been here all summer and the horses seem to be coming back into racing nice and fit early on," he said. "It is a very good sign but there is a long way still to go."

Ffrench had been beaten into second at Jebel Ali's opening meet by the yard's Emirati apprentice Saeed al Mazrooei on Five Cents and said he was happy to get back to winning ways.

Seemar was the only other trainer in the money on Thursday night.

He had a win from Kingdom Beauty in the opening 1,200m maiden and immediately followed up with victory from an old hand, Skycruiser, in a 1,400m handicap.

Kingdom Beauty provided the finish of the night when eating into the five-length lead stolen from the rest of the field by Garbah, yet another Al Raihe charge, ridden by Al Mazrooei. The apprentice sent his mount to the line from 500m out and looked to be home and dry but reckoned without the staying power of Kingdom Beauty who, under the furious urging of Mullen, reeled in Garbah to lead in the last stride before the line.

Skycruiser's victory, also under Mullen, was a more workmanlike affair, with the six-year-old tracking the leaders during the 1,400m race before making his move. "It's always a relief to get early winners," Seemar said. "Kingdom Beauty is one of a shipment of yearlings we got from Saudi Arabia three years ago and she has always stood out as a talent."

sports@thenational.ae