Etijaah decimates field to land Emirates Airline Handicap
Dubai - It was Shaikh Hamdan's third win in three race meetings this season
UAE Champion Owner Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, made it an incredible double under the glittering bright lights of the Meydan Racecourse, the third race meeting of the country's horse racing season.
After Xavier Ziani's mount Don't Lie Kitten had given Shaikh Hamdan a first win on the night, in the first race on the seven-race card, Etijaah then galloped to a commanding victory under Dane O'Neill in the headlining race - the Emirates Airline Handicap - to complete the double.
It was Shaikh Hamdan's third win in three race meetings this season.
Etijaah, who had won this race's equivalent, a year ago, when partnering Sam Hitchcott, made it a second win on the trot after he had prevailed on his previous run in Al Ain in March this year. It was Etijaah's sixth win in 27 starts.
The six-year-old Etijaah had a good start and stayed in touch with the leaders as UAE Champion Jockey Tadhg O'Shea's Zain Eagle and Ziani's mount Handsome Man battled for the lead.
Trained by UAE Champion Trainer Doug Watson, Etijaah then made his move with 300 metres left to go before pulling away to win the 2,000m contest by 5.25 lengths over Handsome Man. Interpret, trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri, was third under apprentice jockey George Buckell.
Etijaah's stablemate Jeeraan was slow to get off the starting gate and finished eighth.
"He did well. He got into a nice position and attacked. I'm very happy with him and he picked it up at the end. He showed an excellent foot there," said O'Neill.
Meanwhile, jockey Royston Ffrench too had a double on the night, winning the Emirates Sky Cargo Handicap and the Arabian Adventures Maiden, the second and third races on the card.
Ffrench won the Emirates Sky Cargo contest run over 1400 metres on board Long Water, trained by Helal Al Alawi, and then partnered Criminalistic to land the Arabian Adventures, also run over 1400 metres.
It was the three-year-old Criminalistic's maiden victory in seven starts. Meanwhile, Short Distance, trained by Beverley Deutrom, was a late withdrawal.
Earlier, Xavier Ziani got racing action underway by winning the first race of the seven-race card.
Ziani, fresh from his victory in Doha on Wednesday, guided Don't Lie Kitten to a victory on debut in the Emirates Holidays Maiden, in what was a thrilling contest over 1400 metres.
It was a tightly bunched up right through the race with the lead changing hands between Leap Of Hope and Don't Lie Kitten with Kahrab also in the mix.
But Ziani asked for more and the two-year-old filly responded to win by 0.75 lengths over Al Boraq, trained by Satish Seemar and ridden by apprentice jockey Cameron Noble.
Seemar's Leap Of Hope, the mount of Richard Mullen was third.
"Today she showed she was the best. I had a make a push because there were horses faster than her. But she did well. She really surprised me. When I asked her again, she went," said Ziani.
Five-year-old Stormardal strode to his second win on the trot and his fifth in 21 starts when he won the Emirates A380 Handicap, the fourth race of the night.
The Ismail Mohammed-trained Stormardal, the son of the famous Shamardal, kept pace with the lead pack before making his move with 400 metres left.
The mount of Adrie De Vries, Stormardal, then sprinted past Ffrench's ride Philosopher to win by 5.5 lengths over Nathr, the charge of UAE Champion Trainer Doug Watson and the ride of Dane O'Neill.
Philosopher, trained by Salem bin Ghadayer, finished third.
"He travelled well all the way round and got a nice gap. Good result. He doesn't mind the kickback. He travels and picks up. He has got a good turn of foot," said Vries.