x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Omani rider’s Abu Dhabi win caps worldwide series

Prior racecourse knowledge proves useful

Salima Al Taleei, riding Kareem W'Rsan, won the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship on Sunday. Antonie Robertson / The National
Salima Al Taleei, riding Kareem W'Rsan, won the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship on Sunday. Antonie Robertson / The National

ABU DHABI // Salima Al Taleei drew on all her experience riding at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club to win the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship on Kareem W’Rsan.

The Jaci Wickham-trained horse won on Sunday from Fryvolous, a multiple Group 1 winner, under Stephanie Hofer of Germany and Ghalib, under Marie Rollando of France.

The race was the culmination of the 12-race series staged around the world from which the winners qualify for the final in the capital.

“This win means a lot to me and was very special because it is reward for all the hard work,” Al Taleei said after receiving the winner’s trophy and a Rolex watch worth Dh34,000 at Abu Dhabi’s opening meeting of the season last night. “Knowing the racecourse very well was a big advantage for me. I was studying the race from the time the gates opened. We were drawn No 2 on the inside. I saw most of the riders either going too fast or too wide.

“I was thinking to myself to be patient and stay in a good position. The horse was travelling well, and at the 300-metre mark I saw some of them in front beginning to struggle.

“I got an opening and the horse did the rest. It all worked out well for me on the night. I have worked very hard for this.”

The Omani, who joined the professional ranks just last season, is the first Arab female jockey to ride professionally.

She qualified for last night’s final after winning a qualifying race in Berlin in May. She began her apprenticeship in 2006, and last night’s win took her tally to seven career victories.

“When I started, I didn’t get many rides,” she said. “I had seven rides when I first started as an apprentice in Abu Dhabi and nine in the following season. In-between I went to ride in Australia and had my first winner in 2007.”

Collen Thabana, the South African apprentice on board the Eric Lemartinel-trained Manan, took the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak European Apprentice Racing School (Ears).

He came from last to first with a strong run from the outside down the home stretch to pip the UAE champion trainer Ernst Oertel’s pair Swyft and Manisha in a photo finish.

Swyft, ridden by the French apprentice Antonio Fresu, was runner-up in the inaugural Ears race last year behind stable companion Richly Blessed.

“My horse was slow from the gates. I tried to keep myself in a good position as best I could because they were going very fast at the beginning,” Thabana said.

“I just worked myself in to a good position, and when I asked him for an effort he responded nicely.

“I would like to think we could have finished better had we come out of the gates more quickly.”

Thabana, 19, was ecstatic as he was led to the winner’s enclosure, clenching his fist and punching the air several times.

“I am thrilled because it was my biggest win and the first outside the country. It was also my first ride on a Purebred Arabian,” he said. “I rode the horse in an exercise on Saturday morning. It was my first time ever on an Arabian. The horse gave me a good feel.”

When asked about the difference on riding a thoroughbred and an Arabian, Thabana said: “There is more work to be done on board an Arabian than on a thoroughbred.”

Thabana, who also received a Rolex watch worth Dh34,000, had ridden 20 winners before arriving in Abu Dhabi and plans to ride professionally once he graduates from the apprentice school in South Africa.

The Emirati apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooie fell off Mudalal at the first turn in the 2,200m race but did not sustain any serious injuries.