Sharjah's 1,700-metre Ruler of Sharjah Trophy will come down to how the Ernst Oertel-trained Shayel Aldhabi takes to dirt, says jockey Tadhg O'Shea. John Byrne reports.
With Tadhg O'Shea aboard Shayel Aldhabi leads charge for Ernst Oertel at Sharjah
Sharjah's final meeting of the season Saturday afternoon is highlighted by their biggest race of the campaign, the Ruler Of Sharjah Trophy, to be run over 1,700 metres.
The maximum 16 entries have been declared, but few can be seriously fancied, and the race appears to revolve around the Abu Dhabi Listed winner, Shayel Aldhabi.
Trained by Ernst Oertel, the filly will be very hard to beat if she successfully transfers her form to this dirt surface.
"If she handles the dirt, she will be hard to beat," said her jockey, Tadhg O'Shea. "But we will only find out if she does on the day."
Course and distance winners AF Hasba and Lwiza may be the ones to take advantage if O'Shea's mount fails to fire on her dirt debut.
The only thoroughbred race on the card is a 1,200m handicap. Last week's Jebel Ali winner Special Boy appears the one to beat.
Wayne Smith will ride for his main employer, the trainer Musabah Al Muhairi.
The Jebel Ali dirt surface is not identical to Sharjah's, but Smith likes Special Boy's chances and said: "He is a young horse and, hopefully, still improving. The surface should not be a problem and we have to be very hopeful." The final race of the Sharjah season is the Sharjah Marathon, a 2,700m handicap won in 2011 by the Doug Watson-trained Fantastique MHF, who bids to regain his crown.
However, he is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, whose retained jockey, Paul Hanagan, elected to ride another course specialist, Estiqraar, trained by Gill Duffield.
The Julio Peromingo-trained SNF Maher is another who goes particularly well at Sharjah, but has to prove his stamina over this extreme distance, as does Kalahari Desert, the choice of the champion jockey, O'Shea, from three Oertel-trained runners.
With racing at Abu Dhabi on Sunday as well, a good weekend for Oertel and O'Shea could see them clinch champion trainer and jockey titles, respectively.
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