Al Zahir and Jim Crowley, picture Emirates Racing Authority and Andrew Watkins
Abu Dhabi racing on Sunday showcased the Group 1 HH The President Cup (2200m) with the prize money of AED2,500,000 making the race one of the world’s most valuable Purebred Arabian contests.
The HH The President Cup, the highlight of a seven race programme, attracted the maximum allowed field of 16, including two previous winners and the first eight home from the course and distance prep race staged three weeks ago.
Fifth on that occasion was Loraa, victorious in HH The President Cup itself last year having finished third in the prep. Trained by Jean de Roualle, she was joined in the field this year by stable companion Ziyadd, third in this year’s prep on his local debut, as well as Dahham, a new recruit for the Frenchman.
The race attracted leading riders from around the racing world including Adrie de Vries on Ziyadd, Gerald Mosse on Dahham, with Richard Mullen, as he was 12 months ago, aboard Loraa.
Jim Crowley rode Al Zahir and after settling in fourth on the inside Crowley then sent him to the head of affairs, quickly putting daylight between themselves and Ziyadd, who had raced in third. Meanwhile, Ziyadd was able to hold on to second with his stable companion, Dahham running on to take third.
Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, by whom Crowley is retained, Al Zahir made a winning local debut over this 2200m course and distance in March 2017. That was in the Arabian Triple Crown R2 and he promptly followed up in the 2400m Arabian Triple Crown R3 a fortnight later, his final start of last season. He was winning for the first time since.
Al Rayhi, who was completing a double on the card, said: “We have always thought this horse had a big prize in him and he has proved us right tonight. His last two runs were on the dirt at Meydan and he ran well enough, without really enjoying the kickback, but these conditions at Abu Dhabi, on the turf, really suit him.
“I am very proud to win this race for Sheikh Hamdan and congratulate him, as well as Jim Crowley who gave the horse a very good ride. He has actually won on him all three times he has ridden him. I am very grateful to His Highness for hic continued support and very lucky to train some very good horses for him.”
The main support race, rescheduled having been due to be contested two weeks ago, the 1200m Group 3 Al Ruwais, was won in good style by Rmmas, a second winner on the evening saddled by Jean de Rouale for Yas Horse Racing Management. Settled in the middle of the field, taking the shortest route on the inside under Richard Mullen, when a gap appeared 300m out they shot through, winning their race in a matter of strides.
Restricted to 4-year-olds, the 1600m Listed Arabian Triple Crown R1 looked competitive with a field of 11, but only one horse matter in the end, Es Ajeeb, who was always travelling well within himself under Sam Hitchcott in front and won much the best.
Es Ajeeb is trained by Ibrahim Aseel, who said: “To win a race like this on such a big day is brilliant for a small yard like ours. He is a very smart horse, we saw that at Sharjah on his second start and again today. It is exciting for all of us involved with the horse.”