Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Cup race highlights Sharjah’s season opener - GulfToday

Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Cup race highlights Sharjah’s season opener


The 1700m handicap for four-year-old and older horses with a maximum rating of 90 has attracted a field of 14.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

The Emirates racing season makes its second stop at Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club on Sunday afternoon and the opening offering at the northern Emirate venue is a six-race programme featuring Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Cup as the marquee event.

The 1700m handicap for four-year-old and older horses with a maximum rating of 90 is among five Purebred Arabian events on the programme and has attracted a field of 14.

A quick glance at the field sees the spotlight fix on the Ernst Oertel-trained pair AF Afham and AF Musannef with the teammates carrying the colours of multiple UAE Champion Owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda.

Oertel and Al Nabooda also have AF Layth in the field, but first choice rider Tadhg O’Shea’s decision to partner AF Afham appears to highlight the chance of the AF Alsalaam entire, despite this being his racecourse debut.

A winner of three of his nine starts, AF Afham was last seen finishing fourth on Abu Dhabi’s turf on the final day of the last season, but he might just hold the edge ahead of his more seasoned teammates AF Musannef (Pat Dobbs: Record: 33:7-7-1) and AF Layth (apprentice rider Marcelino Rodrigues; 11: 1-4-2).

A son of AF Al Buraq, AF Musannef is 7-7-1 from 33 starts with further inspection of his record revealing a clear fondness for turf.

And, while that might be the ground reality, he is sure to benefit from six previous experiences at the track, out of which he managed to place four times.

Jean-Claude Pecout’s Shamakh could benefit from this substantial drop in trip, with top rider, the returning Ryan Curatolo, expected to keep him alert to the demands of a shorter trip.

Conceding weight to all others is Musheer Al Wathba, trained by Frenchman Eric Lemartinel, who has also returned to UAE shores.

On his only previous run at Sharjah in the 2021 campaign, Lemartinel’s charge finished sixth behind Ashton Tourettes, who went on to subsequently achieve Group level success.

A pair of maidens - 1200m and 1000m - for UAE bred horses gets the card underway followed by a pair of handicaps for runners aged four and above, the first of which is a 1700m contest for UAE-bred horses with a maximum rating of 75, the latter, a 2000m handicap, for those rated until 65.

UAE Champion Trainer Doug Watson misses Sharjah’s first Thoroughbred contest, a 1700m handicap for three-year-olds, with the American’s first choice rider, Dobbs, taking one of two spots on the pair being sent out by Emirati conditioner Ahmad Bin Harmash, responsible for Dubai Vision and Al Jaddaf.

Dobbs rides Dubai Vision, a five-year-old Medaglia D’Oro gelding, who closed last season with victory in a 2000m handicap where he pipped Bhupat Seemar’s Perfect Balance by a short head.

The pair renew their rivalry here and the latter could benefit from this cut in trip after seemingly running out of steam having expended plenty of energy in a bid to seize the lead before the turn for home.

Related articles