Watson wins record 7th UAE trainer’s championship, Harrab lands Al Ain Cup - GulfToday

Watson wins record 7th UAE trainer’s championship, Harrab lands Al Ain Cup


Harrab, ridden by Bernardo Pinheiro, races towards the finish line to win the Al Ain Cup on Friday.

American trainer Doug Watson clinched his record seventh UAE champion trainer title on Friday evening at Al Ain Racecourse, holding off three-time champion Ernst Oertel in a thrilling to-the-line standings battle.

Winding up with 40 victories, Watson claimed the championship for the seventh time, breaking the tie at six he had with Satish Seemar. Oertel ended up with 39 victories.

“We have such a great team at home, both the owners and the staff,” Watson said. “They have been fantastic and everyone works seven days a week and we went through the COVID situation and thankfully everyone’s okay from that and things have gone well (since). It was tough right down to the wire.”

Oertel needed three winners to overtake Watson after the Red Stables trainer saddled a double at Meydan to take his tally to 40, with more second-place finishes.

However, the South African, a four-time winner of the trainers’ title, managed just one winner on the six-race card of the season-ending meet.

Watson had two runners in the only thoroughbred prize in the seven-race card on Friday. They were both unplaced but it didn’t matter as the American had the title in the bag after the fifth race.

Meanwhile, having staged the very first meeting of the season back in October, Al Ain also hosted the final fixture of the campaign when Friday evening’s card was highlighted by the inaugural running of the Al Ain Cup, ultimately won comfortably by Harrab.

The very final race of the UAE season, the featured 2000m conditions contest, was contested by a select field of six and AF Sanad, a winner at Abu Dhabi as recently as Abu Dhabi just six days ago, made a gallant bid to make every post a winning one. Halfway up the straight he had four of his rivals toiling but Bernardo Pinheiro, sporting the striking green and yellow checked silks of Al Wathba Racing, was making steady inroads into his advantage. Passing the 200m pole it was evident that Pinheiro was timing his challenge to perfection, the pair sweeping past the battling AF Sanad with about 80m remaining to win with, seemingly, plenty left up his sleeve.

Trained by Majed Al Jahoori, the homebred 6-year-old entire was having only his second dirt outing and was taking a massive drop in class having been campaigned in Group One company in six of his previous eight outings.

This was just a second career success, adding to the 2200m Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown R2 he won on the Abu Dhabi turf in March 2019 when saddled by Mohamed Ali.

For horses in private ownership, the opening 1600m handicap was won in fairly decisive fashion by RB Kings Bay, ridden by Omani apprentice Abdul Aziz Al Balushi for owners Byerley Racing and handler Helal Al Alawi who trains locally.

Previously a maiden after six starts, the 4-year-old colt did have a runners-up and two third placings to his name and actually won this in good style having been settled just behind the leaders in the early half of the race.

Asked to challenge just after halfway, he hit the front passing the 600m pole and never looked in any realistic danger afterwards.

Restricted to 4-year-olds, a 1600m maiden was dominated by AF Ensito who was soon in front under Fernando Jara, skipped clear early in the straight and never appeared likely to be caught.

Saddled by Mohamed Daggash for Ahmed Mohd Saif Murshed Al Marar, the 4-year-old colt was opening his account at the fourth attempt and was actually showing his first clear sign of real ability.

The ever formidable trio of Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda, his retained jockey Tadhg O’Shea and main trainer, Ernst Oertel combined to land the 1400m maiden for fillies and mares with AF Sourouh who was making it ‘third time lucky’.

Homebred, the 5-year-old mate only made her debut in the middle of December when showing good early speed over 1700m at Sharjah before fading. She followed that with a third, albeit a distant one, behind an easy winner over this 1400m course and distance here at Al Ain.

The only Thoroughbred race on the card was a 2000m handicap and O’Shea completed a double with the emphatic success of Dubai Canal for trainer Satish Seemar and owner Ailan Hamad Kadfoor Al Mehairi.

O’Shea settled the 5-year-old Nayef entire in fourth before asking him to close on the trio in front of him as they entered the long Al Ain straight. Soon there was only Zucchini to get past and they managed that, seemingly almost effortlessly, with about 75m remaining, the pair defying top weight in good style.

Only raced in the UAE, the winner was doubling his career tally having previously won a 1600m maiden on the Abu Dhabi turf last January. This first dirt success was registered at the sixth attempt and he arrived here after a close second, over 1400m, on his Al Ain debut.

O’Shea said: “He ran very well here the last day and would likely have won over another 50m. We always though this 2000m here on a flat track would really suit him and it has.”


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