AF Momtaz lands GCC Cup; treble delight for Al Nabooda - GulfToday

AF Momtaz lands GCC Cup; treble delight for Al Nabooda


Omani apprentice Saif Al Balushi rides AF Momtaz to victory in the second edition of the GCC Cup at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday.

Racing at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday afternoon was highlighted by the GCC Cup, a 1700m Prestige contest inaugurated last year, dominated by Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda whose pair AF Momtaz and AF Motaghatres fought out the finish, the former prevailing under a confident ride from Omani apprentice Saif Al Balushi.

Jesus Rosales had rousted Shawall from the stalls, clearly eager to lead which they did until Al Balushi asked his mount to go past with about 400m remaining only to be tackled by Tadhg O’Shea and AF Motaghatres. Briefly, for a second, it looked likely to develop into a battle, but Al Balushi’s mount was nothing if not determined, taking the prize for Musabbeh Al Mheiri who trains very few Purebred Arabians these days.

The 7-year-old entire, like so many of the Al Nabooda horses homebred was winning for the sixth time and second consecutive outing, having scored on the Abu Dhabi turf in a 1600m handicap a fortnight ago. On just his third dirt outing he was winning on the surface for the first time having been beaten a long way on his previous attempts, one here at Sharjah, more recently in January 2019 at Jebel Ali.

Al Nabooda, completing a homebred treble on the card, was delighted and said: “What a great result and a special afternoon for me, my trainers and everybody involved at home with the breeding side.”          

Balushi added: “That was brilliant and my horse has really travelled well before quickening then battling and running on strongly. I have to say a big thank you to the connections for this chance in such a prestigious race.”

Earlier, Ernst Oertel saddled four for Al Nabooda in the opening 1700m handicap, for horses foaled in the UAE, and combined with Adam McLean to land the spoils with AF Mezmar. Having tracked Tadhg O’Shea aboard stable companion AF Arrab throughout the first 1200m, McLean eased his mount to the front leaving the home turn, soon opening up a commanding advantage.

Drifting slightly towards the centre of the track in the straight, they allowed AF Arrab to make a renewed challenge, but that soon ended and it was left to Al Jazi to finish with real purpose, but just too late, under Fabrice Veron to take second.

Having just his seventh career start, the 5-year-old was winning for the second time having landed his second outing, a 1200m Sharjah maiden, in December 2018. Al Nabooda, who also bred the winner, said: “That is the ideal start to the afternoon. I have to thank Ernst and his team who do such a good job with these horses.”          

McLean added: “Riding for these connections in this type of race you know you are always likely to be in with a chance and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”          

Owner and trainer soon doubled up in the following 2000m maiden, also restricted to horses foaled locally. This time O’Shea, who is retained by Al Nabooda, in the saddle aboard AF Ajwad.

Thirteen previous starts for the homebred 6-year-old entire had been highlighted by a second, in a 1600m Al Ain maiden in November 2018, the only time he had finished in the first three. Settled in midfield by O’Shea, he cruised into contention on the home turn before hitting the front with about 300m remaining and staying on strongly to belatedly open his account.

A cheerful O’Shea said: “I am very lucky to ride for Messrs Al Nabooda and Oertel who have so many nice Purebred Arabian horses. Luckily we only had one runner in this, so I could not pick the wrong one as I did in the first race!”     Al Nabooda added: “Tadhg is obviously our main jockey, so it is great to team up with him for a winner and that is two homebreds who have scored which is particularly gratifying.”

Sixteen may have gone to post for the 1200m handicap, but very few ever managed to get involved with Gold Silver and Sam Hitchcott probably never headed, chased throughout by runner-up WMA Afar, the pair having led their respective groups throughout.

Trained on the track by Ibrahim Aseel for Ziad Galadari, this was only a fifth racecourse appearance for the 4-year-old colt who was doubling his career tally having easily won a 1000m Al Ain maiden on his penultimate start at the beginning of January.

Aseel said: “This is a nice young horse who has plenty of natural speed and was giving weight to all bar the runner-up with the pairing sharing top weight, so it was a very good performance.”

Hitchcott added: “He is improving all the time with a lot of speed as he showed at Al Ain and again today with this 1200m being as far as he would want to go because he is all about speed.”          

Second on his only previous outing, Atrash went one better in style when running out the comfortable winner of a 1000m maiden, again for horses bred locally, having raced prominently throughout under Richard Mullen, riding for Ana Mendez and Yas Racing.

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