It is Sharjah’s final meeting of the season on Friday and a maximum field of 16 have been declared for the course’s biggest race of the season, the 1700m Ruler of Sharjah Trophy, this year worth an impressive AED125,000.
All eyes will be on Shayel Aldhabi, a winner four times in the UAE for trainer Ernst Oertel, including the opening round of the Arabian Triple Crown, a Listed race and second in the Group 3 middle round of that series when last seen three weeks ago.
All those races were on the Abu Dhabi turf. Now she will be racing on dirt for the first time and Champion Jockey Tadhg O’Shea, who has won on her three times, explained: “On the ratings she has to have a massive chance and she has not run a bad race all season but, as we all know, until they prove they handle dirt there is always a question mark.
“We have been to Sharjah with horses in the past we thought would win but have just not acted there. Hopefully she will not be one of them.”
Tony Manuel has enjoyed another prolific season at Sharjah, saddling six winners, one more than Oertel. Richard Mullen rides Tahdeed who could be the main danger to O’Shea’s mount. A 1200m Sharjah winner on his debut, he was well beaten in his only subsequent start at Abu Dhabi but should relish the return to dirt.
Manuel, who also saddles dirt debutant Al Waqqad, said: “Tahdeed’s debut win was a good one but he did not really build on that at Abu Dhabi. Hopefully the return to Sharjah will bring out the improvement we hoped for.
“Al Waqqad has been a model of consistency and we are keen to try him on the dirt so this looked a good opportunity to do that. Hopefully they can both run well but Ernst’s filly will be hard to beat.”
The Gill Duffield-trained AF Hasba and Jaber Bittar’s Lwiza are both course and distance maiden winners and others to consider.
Racing concludes with one of the longest races of the Sharjah season, the aptly named Sharjah Marathon, a 2700m handicap and the Duffield-trained course specialist Estiqraar is the choice of retained jockey Paul Hanagan from three runners owned by his main employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
That leaves the owner’s second jockey the ride on the Doug Watson-trained Fantastique MHF, winner of this race in 2011.
The only Thoroughbred race is a very competitive 1200m handicap in which the Musabah Al Muhairi-trained Special Boy looks the one to beat with stable jockey Wayne Smith in the saddle. The pair won well over 1400m at Jebel Ali last week and, assuming he handles this different dirt surface, has the scope to improve on what will only be his ninth start.
Adrie De Vries was the jockey to follow at Meydan on Thursday, riding a treble, and he partners Bircham, second to Special Boy last week, for Ismail Mohammed.