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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 February 2019

Al Zahir set for crack at Dubai Kahayla Classic after HH The President's Cup success

Jockey Jim Crowley times run right in Abu Dhabi to prevail ahead of Al Shamoos

Al Zahir, ridden by Jim Crowley, comes home first in the HH The President's Cup. Erika Rasmussen for The National
Al Zahir, ridden by Jim Crowley, comes home first in the HH The President's Cup. Erika Rasmussen for The National

Al Zahir became only the second Purebred Arabian to win the Group 1 HH The President’s Cup in successive years as he prevailed at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club on Sunday.

It was a case of keeping it in the family for Al Zahir as he repeated the achievement of his sire Madjani, who had been the first horse to achieve the feat in 2005 and 2006.

Al Zahir, running in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, was ridden to victory by jockey Jim Crowley - as had been the case 12 months earlier.

They took up the running on the final bend of the 2,200-metre trip and stayed on strongly to win by more than two lengths from the French raider Al Shamoos under the French champion jockey Christophe Soumillon.

“It's just fantastic to have won the race for the second straight year,” said Crowley, who had kept faith on the six-year-old despite a couple of disappointing runs in his last two starts that saw him finish ninth at Meydan and 10th in Abu Dhabi last month.

“It was a bit disappointing this year, with the way he performed coming into race, and so it was decided he was to go with the blinkers on for the first time and he did well," Crowley said.

“We know Arabians improve when they have the blinkers on. He's always been a very giving horse. I knew he stays well and we went with a move half way in the race.

“We decided to go for home and he couldn't be caught. It’s a great race to win and one of the top races to be part of and to win it twice not many have done that. So it feels great.”

Al Zahir’s handler Ali Rashid Al Raihe said the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan on February 28 will be an option for his charge before a second attempt at the Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night on March 30.

“The horse hasn’t run to our expectations this season until tonight,” said Al Raihe.

“We had the headgear fitted and tongue tie applied, and it seemed to have worked well. He was bang to his old self.

“We’ll now see how he’s come out of this race and decide where he goes next."

Elsewhere, Bahraini trainer Fawzi Nass, who is enjoying a fine season in the UAE, won the HH The President's Cup for thoroughbreds with Legendary Lunch under Harry Bentley.

Bentley timed the run to the front on the home stretch to win from Wasim and Zainhom by a length and a neck respectively.

“It was a strong race but he's been showing up in some pretty good contests recently and he's been doing well and suited to these tactics,” said Bentley.

“He was a bit worked up before the race but I was not sure if it's a normal trait of his. He wasn't sweating or anything but was definitely excited and I think his biggest concern was the draw.

“I knew he had a great chance on paper and there were some pretty good horses in it but I was confident.”

Updated: February 10, 2019 09:09 PM

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