Al Zahir emerges a favourite for Kahayla Classic

Abu Dhabi: After clinching two Group 1 prizes worth Dh2.5 million, Al Zahir, trained by Ali Rashid Al Raihe, has emerged as one of the hot favourites for the Dubai Kahayla Classic on Dubai World Cup night on March 31.

The five-year-old chestnut comes in with a huge reputation as he is the son of Madjani, who shares the record in the Kahayla Classic with Alanood — the only two who have won the Kahayla Classic three times in a row.

Al Zahir’s victory on Saturday, in the Emirates Championship at the Abu Dhabi Race Course, brought down the curtains on the racing season in the capital.

“We were drawn on stall No. 16 which was a definite concern because you can find yourself in trouble on that first bend, but he is such a classy horse we were able to find a nice position,” said Crowley.

Crowley, who was aboard in each of Al Zahir’s wins, was settled on the middle of the pack in the early stages but burst out to go clear 600m from finish. Such was his dominance that Crowley could have won by a bigger margin. Finishing second a good five-and-a-half lengths behind was Jean de Roaulle’s newcomer Thabit and the Eric Lemartinel-trained Abu Alabyad.

“When I asked him to close he did so effortlessly and we know he stays further, so I was more than happy to go for home a long way out. He is a very good horse and I imagine will take his chance in the Kahayla Classic on World Cup night now,” said Crowley, who with this impressive victory has a tough decision to make on his ride in the Kahayla Classic between Al Zahir and Barnamaj, winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2.

“Al Zahir is a good horse, a super horse, but it all depends on how he handles the dirt at Meydan. He has to take his chance in the Kahayla Classic. I have a tough decision with Barnamaj who loves the dirt,” added Crowley.

Trainer Al Raihe was also upbeat about Al Zahir doing equally well on both the turf and the dirt despite Al Zahir finishing fourth behind Barnamaj in the Al Maktoum Round 2, held on February 1.

“Al Zahir has proved he’s a very good horse on the turf and I’m sure he can handle the dirt if the kick-back can be avoided,” said Al Raihe.

Crowley was completing a double after winning the UAE Arabian Derby on Mahshoum for the same trainer and owner.

In contrast to his second win, the former British Champion jockey used a front running tactic on Mahshoum. He made all the running over the 2200m trip for a narrow win over De Roualle’s Dahham, ridden by Richard Mullen and Abdallah Al Hammadi’s Al Tiryaq under Sam Hitchcott by half a length and head, respectively.

The evening was also highlighted with Fernando Jara ridding a double by taking the Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown Round 3 for trainer Al Hammadi and rounding it off with Maiden on Ernst Oertel’s AF Esnad. Jara with the double also dethroned Tadhg O’Shea to emerge as the best jockey of the Abu Dhabi season with 11 victories.

Adrie de Vries aboard Mike de Kock’s Light The Lights stole the show in the lone race for the thoroughbreds, the Group 3 Abu Dhabi Championship, finishing ahead of Al Raihe’s Janszoon and Ahmad Al Harmash’s Sharpalo.

Pat Buckley, the racing manager Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, summed up about the Abu Dhabi season said: “It was a very good season as we hosted nearly 100 races and had more than 1000 runners. Excellent quality of horses were there and some thrilling races. Possibly the best season as everything went as per plans and nothing untoward happened. The surface has been great and nobody complained so pretty much delighted to finish on a high.” 

Who won what

Abu Dhabi Racing season

Leading Trainer: Ernest Ortel: 18 wins

Leading Jockey: Fernando Jara: 11 wins

Leading Owner: Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda: 18 wins

Pat Buckley, the racing manager Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, speaking about the Abu Dhabi season said: “It was a very good season as we hosted nearly 100 races and had more than 1000 runners. Excellent quality of horses were there and some thrilling races. Possibly the best season as everything went as per plans and nothing untoward happened. The surface has been great and nobody complained so pretty much delighted to finish on a high.”

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