AF Kal Noor, ridden by Tadhg O’Shea, wins The Ruler of Sharjah Cup at the Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday.
The final meeting of the current season at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday afternoon was highlighted by the The Ruler of Sharjah Cup, a 1700m Prestige contest turned into a procession by AF Kal Noor and jockey Tadhg O’Shea.
Riding for his main employer, owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and trainer Ernst Oertel, a combination which won this prize in 2018 with subsequent dual Group 1 winner AF Maher under Antonio Fresu, O’Shea was winning the prize for a sixth time and fifth since 2014.
The Al Nabooda homebred 5-year-old was having just his third career start and remains unbeaten on dirt and this season. Seventh and third on his two Abu Dhabi turf appearances last season, he won a 1400m Jebel Ali maiden on his return this campaign, 99 days ago, by almost 16 lengths, so has now won half of his four career starts.
“I like this race and have a good record in it,” O’Shea said. “I thought this was a strong renewal, but this is a horse we have always really liked and we waited since Jebel Ali to run him in this. He is still learning and has plenty of maturing to do, but he is a nice horse and, we hope, one with a big future.”
The opening 1200m maiden for horses foaled in the UAE, as is the case with so many races, was won by Al Nabooda, who enjoyed a Sharjah treble last Saturday, his main trainer Oertel, in double form last week, and retained jockey O’Shea.
Raced just once previously, AF Lamia was a well beaten fifth on that debut, over this course and distance but clearly learned plenty.
Having tracked the pace on the nearside of the track, with the 16 runners spread right across the course, O’Shea drove his mount to lead about 300m from home and the 7-year-old mare ran on gamely.
Their task was made somewhat easier when eventual third JAP Tohfa drifted markedly across the course, hampering runner-up ES Ghazi in the process, but the winner way well have prevailed regardless.
Al Nabooda, who also bred the mare, said: “I have a great team behind me with Ernst, his staff and Tadhg, so again thank them for another winner. Winning with homebreds is extra special and she did that nicely today on just her second start.”
Connections appeared set to complete a rapid double when AF Taghzel hit the front with only 100m left in the following 1000m handicap only to be caught, right on the line, by JAP Al Afreet, the rival he had appeared to have had the beating of when sweeping to the front. However, Elione Chaves was able to galvanise his mount to battle back, putting his head back in front where it mattered for owner Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, who also bred the 7-year-old, and trainer Irfan Ellahi. It was a second career victory, but first on dirt, having won a 1200m maiden on the Abu Dhabi turf in December 2018.
“That was very exciting the way he fought back,” Ellahi said. “I was not sure if we had won or not, but was hopeful he had prevailed and delighted when it was confirmed.”
The curtain came down on the Sharjah campaign with the Sharjah Marathon, a 2700m handicap won in 2019 by RB Grynade for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Eric Lemartinel. Ridden then by Fabrice Veron, he repeated the trick, but with the Frenchman suspended, Bernardo Pinheiro took over in the saddle on this occasion.
Sixteen may have gone to post, but very few were ever able to get competitive from the moment O’Shea sent eventual fourth AF Kafu to the front with just short of a circuit of the tight Sharjah track remaining.
They soon had most of their rivals in trouble apart from Pinheiro’s mount who threw down the gauntlet 600m out. A fierce duel ensued for 300m when AF Kafu started to falter with the race seemingly in Pinheiro’s grasp only for his mount to drift markedly to the rail.
Soon corrected by his jockey, he then stayed on and was always holding the late flourish of Favolo PY who flew home from a long way back. Pinheiro, completing a double and also in winning action at Jebel Ali on Friday, said: “It has been a good weekend and this was a lovely spare ride to pick up, so I am very grateful to the connections for such a wonderful opportunity. Obviously, he won the race last year so I knew conditions suited him and he really battled from a long way out to get on top. He perhaps tired in the final stages but had enough left in the tank.”
The final meeting of the Sharjah Longines Racecourse season on Saturday was highlighted by Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup, a 1700m Prestige handicap which produced a grandstand finish with Al Mufham SB snatching the spoils in the dying strides.
The final UAE fixture of 2019 took place at Sharjah Longines Racecourse on Saturday and was highlighted by the The Crown Prince of Sharjah Cup, a 1200m Prestige contest for which only those foaled in the UAE are eligible.
A Doug Watson-trained Galvanize sprinted to a facile victory under jockey Nathan Crosse at the Dhs200,000 Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup, a 1700m handicap and the only Thoroughbred race on the six-card meeting.
Team Manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Spa) will lead the squad alongside Sports Directors Andrej Hauptman (Slo), Simone Pedrazzini (Swi) and Marco Marcato (Ita).
Indian women will play a three ODI series in the captaincy of the Harmanpreet Kaur against Sri Lanka’s 19-member squad, which is being led by Chamari Athapaththu.
A dominant England has swept New Zealand 3-0 in the Test series with an aggressive seven-wicket victory in the third and final Test match on Monday.