Silvestre de Sousa and Wald Johnny should provide biggest test for Skoop at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club amid a strong field for tonight's prestige race.
Oertel's Skoop faces tough challenge from Wald Johnny at Arabian Derby
ABU DHABI // Ernst Oertel has racked up 24 winners so far this season and has nine entries in Sunday night's six-race card, including Skoop in the UAE Arabian Derby, as he aims to chase down champion trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe, who is on 27.
Oertel, the Al Asayl Stables trainer, is double-handed in the feature race of the evening with Skoop and Najm Alemarat, which has drawn 13 runners and will be run over 2,200m.
Skoop, the Njewman colt, was an impressive winner of his only race in France.
He is the choice of Tadhg O'Shea, the retained jockey for the Abu Dhabi stables.
"He is a lovely big horse who is going very well at home," the UAE champion jockey said.
"Obviously he lacks the experience of some of these, including stable companion Najm Alemarat, who is also a nice horse. Skoop has been off since May but he certainly has bags of potential."
Skoop won his only start by six lengths over the 1,850m trip while Najm Alemarat has run four times, breaking his maiden tag on reappearance and narrowly beaten in the next two starts, all over the 1,600m distance.
The main challenge for Skoop appears to be Wald Johnny, a winner on his only start, while Vazs Mane Son, Pilepoile, and Magik De Paon, a winner of two races, may also pose a threat.
The Godolphin jockey Silvestre de Sousa takes the ride again on Wald Johnny for the trainer Ibrahim Al Hadhrami, with whom the Brazilian has struck up a profitable partnership in recent weeks.
De Sousa, who rode AF Kamaash to victory for the trainer at Jebel Ali on Friday, sounded confident of the locally-bred bay son of Johnny Onthe Spot.
"He is a nice young horse and I was impressed when he won first time," he said. "That was two weeks ago and should have improved a lot for that experience over a trip of 1,400m that was on the short side for him.
"The extra distance should be very much in his favour and the stable is in form. Obviously it is a better race, but he should go very well."
Vazs Mane Son, winner of three of his five previous starts but beaten on his sole turf appearance in a Group 2 contest at Newbury, England represents the Royal Cavalry of Oman.
Another interesting local debutant is Pilepoile, the mount of Wayne Smith for owner and trainer Ahmed Abdullah Al Marzooqi and the winner of three of his five starts in Oman.
Magik Du Paon, trained on the course by Eric Lemartinel, is another to consider under Gerald Avranche, who will be sporting the colours of owner Ali Haddad which were carried to a Group 1 victory in the Al Maktoum Challenge by Albar Lotois at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday.
Oertel will also look to claim the main supporting prize, the Emirates Fillies Classic, with Sheyel Aldhabi, who retains her unbeaten UAE record, having won all three races since her switch from France.
Hab Nessnas and Gali Rich represent the South African in the opening race, a maiden, while Richlore, Chick Flick, and Noor Einy are his entries in the rated conditions, scheduled half an hour later.
The only Thoroughbred race is the concluding 1,600m handicap with the maximum field of 16 set to face the starter.
Al Raihe has three entered – led by Alraased in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid.
The chestnut son of Exchange Rate makes a quick return after he was unplaced in his first race for the Grandstand Stables at Meydan last week.
"He was a bit unlucky when he ran in to traffic last time. He has some useful European form under his belt and we are hopeful of a good run from him in Abu Dhabi," the Emirati said.
Al Raihe's two other entries are Switzerland and El Wasmi, under the stable apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei.
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