by Steve Andersen
Mahbooba (Bibi de Carrere x Nevada du Loup by Manganate) needed three starts in Group 1 races in the United Arab Emirates before she reached the winner’s circle in the $272,479 Emirates Championship at Abu Dhabi on March 19.
The win left jockey Tadgh O’Shea as enthusiastic about the rest of her career as he was with her win in the prestigious marathon turf race. “She is going to be exciting next season as she is getting better, we hope,” he said.
Mahbooba, who races for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trainer Eric Lemartinel, won for the sixth time in her nine-race career in the Group 1 Emirates Championship, which was run on the final program of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Mahbooba won three of her first four starts in early 2016, ending the season with a win in the UAE Arabian Derby. She won her first two starts this season, in December and January, before finishing fifth in the Group 1 Presidents Cup at Abu Dhabi on February 12 and ninth in the Group 1 third round of the Maktoum Challenge on dirt at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on February 23.
A return to turf in the Emirates Championship was one of the keys to victory, along with a clean start in the race at 2,200 meters, or about 13/8 miles, on turf. O’Shea had expressed concern before the Emirates Championship about Mahbooba’s manners at the gate. She had a sharp start and raced just behind pacesetter Abhaar, who won the 2016 Emirates Championship.
Mahbooba raced in traffic with a half-mile to go and took the lead in the final quarter-mile, winning by three lengths over Nashmee, one of five runners in the field of nine owned by Sheikh Khalifa and trained by Lemartinel.
“Mahbooba is a very good mare,” O’Shea said. “She has proved again here with an impressive display. She was much happier back on turf after trying dirt last time.”
Nashmee (Akbar x Jade des Pins by Octavius) finished a short head in front of Babel D’Aillas (Dahess x Ozana D’Aillas by Kairouan de Jos).
“The team had a strong hand obviously, and it is a great way to finish another good season,” O’Shea said. “I am the lucky one to be able to ride all these good horses, but it is a real team effort.”
Al Zahir (Madjani x Petite Class by Barour de Cardonne) extended his winning streak to three races with wins in the second and third rounds of the Arabian Triple Crown. Owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, Al Zahir lost his first three races in France in September and October before winning his final start of 2016 in that country in Toulouse in November.
In Abu Dhabi, Al Zahir was the clear winner of both of his starts. The second round of the Arabian Triple Crown was run at 2,200 meters, while the third round on March 19 was run at 2,400 meters, or about 11/2 miles, on turf. The races were each worth $81,743.
Al Zahir was part of a field of eight in the third round. Ridden by Jim Crowley for trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, Al Zahir was near the front of the field throughout. Crowley had to steer Al Zahir out of traffic with 300 meters to go, but took the lead in the final sixteenth of a mile.
“We were in a pocket as the pace kept slowing and then found ourselves boxed in entering the straight,” Crowley said. “I was always going very well, though, and knew once there was a gap he would pick up. He quickened very nicely to actually win pretty easily in the end.”
Al Zahir was timed in a course record 2:39.82. Al Zahir won by 31/4 lengths over Darius Du Paon (No Risk Al Maury x Safira Du Paon by Akbar). Darius Du Paon races for Sheikh Khalifa and Lemartinel and was second to Al Zahir in the second round of the Arabian Triple Crown.
Maisoor (Burning Sand x Ahasen by Saut Du Loup) is unbeaten after nine starts following his win in the $54,495 UAE Arabian Derby. Owned by the Royal Cavalry of Oman and trained by Said Al Badi, Maisoor has yet to face a challenge. He won the UAE Arabian Derby at 2,200 meters by seven lengths over Al Tiryaq (Bibi De Carrere x Amalia by Kesberoy).
Adrie de Vries rode Maisoor for the first time in the UAE Derby. De Vries had Maisoor in front with more than a quarter-mile to go before taking even more command of the race. “He is a very good horse and has shown that again,” De Vries said. “I was never concerned throughout the race and it was a very easy win from a potentially very smart performer.”
Maisoor won his first six starts in Muscat, Oman, in dirt races before moving to Abu Dhabi, where he has excelled in three starts on turf.
RB Burn (Majd Al Arab x Burnie Gee PW by Burning Sand), a Florida-bred, won the richest Arabian race in the world in the Sheikh Zayed Jewel Crown last November. The $136,239 Liwa Oasis on March 5 was his first win since November. RB Burn was second in the first round of the Maktoum Challenge on dirt at Meydan on January 5.
In the Liwa Oasis at 1,400 meters on turf, or about seven furlongs, RB Burn rallied from the back of a field of nine to reach contention three furlongs from the finish. Ridden by Gerald Avranche, RB Burn took the lead with a furlong to go and won by 11/2 lengths over Ain Jaloot (Amer x Shoagh by Dormane).
“I was determined to find cover for him early on as he can be keen,” Avranche said. “Once, he settled he traveled nicely.”
The Liwa Oasis, the top sprint of the Abu Dhabi season, was the fourth career win for the five-year-old RB Burn.
Steve Andersen is a correspondent for Daily Racing Form.