Ajwad, ridden by Bernardo Pinheiro, races towards the finish line to win Nad Al Sheba Classic on Friday. Supplied photo
The final race night of the UAE season was staged on Friday evening at Meydan Racecourse and featured full fields, an enthusiastic crowd and perfect Dubai weather befitting of a 2018-19 season that was lush with brilliance.
The night was topped by a pair of brand new Dhs240,000 (about $65,000) conditions events—the Nad Al Sheba Classic presented by Longines VHP Collection over 2000m on turf and Meydan Mile sponsored by Azizi Riviera over 1600m on dirt—that could eventually become top events on the Meydan racing calendar if their first impressions were any indication. As a whole, the night’s seven races left copious clues of horses to watch for next season and made many an onlooker hopeful for even more excitement in 2019-2020.
One of those aforementioned promising types put on an eye-opening display when Bouresly Racing Syndicate’s Ajwad went straight to the front in the Nad Al Sheba Classic and then fought off all comers en route to a neck tally over Group 1-placed Majestic Mambo (Adrie de Vries up).
Ridden to perfection by Bernardo Pinheiro, the son of Rock of Gibraltar was stretching out from 1600m to win the 2000m event in a swift time of 2:02.53. The effort came just two starts after finishing a respectable fifth to Blue Point in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (G3) on Super Saturday.
The win was his fifth from 29 starts and third in six weeks. Hold Sway and Xavier Ziani ran on well to claim third, 2½ lengths back of the top two. Favourite Gabr failed to factor after a brief inside rally to finish sixth, Godolphin Mile (G2) champion Second Summer (15th) faltered after showing speed and Group 1/Grade 1 winners Yulong Prince (11th) and Logrado (16th) disappointed.
The inaugural Meydan Mile, sponsored by Azizi Riviera and taking place 35 minutes prior, was a wide-open 1600m conditions contest that could have gone to multiple on paper and appeared equally as up for grabs at the top of the lane. Thegreatcollection, under a brilliantly patient ride by Adrie de Vries, was held up behind a wall of foes before the proverbial seas split and he burst through an opening to defeat chronically wide stablemate Galvanize (Pat Dobbs up) and a hard-trying Rodaini (Connor Beasley up). The final time was a smart 1:37.01 and the victory was his fifth lifetime from 17 starts. The final winning margin was 2¼ lengths for the 5-year-old gelded son of Saint Anddan.
The evening got underway with the Al Tayer Motors Maiden over 1400m (seven furlongs) on turf that was won in promising style by Jaarim, a WinStar Farm-bred half-brother to multiple stakes winner Bayerd. With Adrie de Vries in the saddle for main employer Fawzi Nass, the son of Distorted Humor tracked nicely in mid-pack on the rail before tipping out to find room turning for home. After briefly struggling to find his path, he gained clearance and zeroed in on favourite Dark Thunder (Pat Dobbs aboard), who appeared to be a winner at the time. Spoiling said rival’s hopeful graduation, the bay 3-year-old colt won by a half-length at the wire for his owner-trainer, annexing his initial victory in his third lifetime start. Rayig was another neck back in third under Fernando Jara. The final time was 1:25.64.
The second race, the Azizi Mina Handicap over 1200m on dirt, was won in gate-to-wire fashion by Chess Master, who ran the board with aplomb from his rail post, stopping the Longines clock in 1:11.17. Ridden to perfection by Antonio Fresu for Musabbeh Al Mheiri, he bucked his long odds, as well hand previous form that saw him finish behind race favourite Lytham St Annes, who checked in third this time under Pat Dobbs. He was 1¼ lengths astern Leading Spirit (Richard Mullen up), who was 4½ lengths behind the promising winner. A 3-year-old son of Shamardal, Chess Master is a son of crack sprint filly Cassandra Go, who was second in the July Cup (G1), making him a half to Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) winner Halfway to Heaven.
It was a landmark 400th winner for Mheiri. In a severe reversal in form, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Manahir closed like a rocket to run down a tough-luck runner-up in Pillar of Society (Pat Dobbs up) in Race 3.