Returning from injury, having missed racing in the capital last week, jockey Richard Mullen wasted no time in hitting the target with a confident ride aboard Recordman for his main local employer, Satish Seemar.
Settled in midfield among the 12 runners, Mullen was always travelling well before easing his mount into contention on the home turn. When asked, his mount responded well, overtaking highweight Zamaam, whose yardmate Mudaarab ranged up on the outside of the eventual winner to little avail as the 4-year-old son of Dubawi held off the Shadwell blue and white-clad pair.
Recordman won once from six starts in Great Britain for Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin, his breeders, before former multiple UAE Champion Jockey Ted Durcan purchased him on behalf of new connections for $86,612 at Tattersalls in February. Now owned by Mohd Khaleel Ahmed, this was just his second UAE outing, having struggled at Jebel Ali four weeks ago over 1400m. It was a first turf victory at the fourth attempt, having won on the all-weather at Chelmsford in the Godolphin blue.
Mullen said: "Obviously, I am glad to be back in the saddle and to start with a winner is brilliant. He is a young horse who has done that nicely and hopefully is going to improve."
The maximum field allowed of 14 may have gone to post for the 1400m Abu Dhabi Fillies Classic, for 3-year-olds foaled in the UAE and a race carrying Prestige status, but in reality the majority never threatened to land a blow behind the impressive Dhafra. Sent straight to the front by Fabrice Veron, the pair never saw another rival, skipping clear halfway up the straight to win easily and maintain her unbeaten record having won a course and distance maiden on her only other appearance five weeks ago. Trained at Al Asayl by Eric Lemartinel, she is a homebred who carries the silks of Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan.
Veron said: "She was very good today and—to be honest—I did not plan to lead, but she took me there and I did not want to disappoint her. When I asked her to quicken, she responded very well and that was a very pleasing effort; one that bodes well for the future."
Half an hour later, also over 1400m for 3-year-olds foaled locally and a Prestige contest, the Abu Dhabi Colts Classic went to the same connections with an ultimately comfortable victory for Maqam, achieved in a totally different manner to that of his stable companion. Last of the 14 runners after 300m, Veron took him to the inside rail to save ground but the pair still had more rivals in front than behind entering the final 500m. However, once in the straight, they were able to weave between rivals before bursting to the front inside the final 200m and dashing clear.
Also homebred by Sheikha Alyazia, he was second on debut over 1000m at Sharjah in early November before, over 200m further on the same dirt surface, landing his second outing a week later.
"This is going to be a staying horse more than a speed one, as we saw there he was struggling to keep up early on but the further we went the better he was going, "Veron said. "It has been a good evening for us all!"
A positive move from Tadhg O'Shea at the 450m pole, committing for home aboard AF Taraha, secured the 2200m handicap for horses in private ownership. Said 6-year-old mare had most of her 11 rivals immediately in trouble and powered all the way to the line to register her fourth career victory and second on turf. A course and distance winner on her penultimate start in November she was then, a week later, second over 1800m on the dirt at Al Ain. Homebred by Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda she, like the vast majority of the owner's string, is trained by Ernst Oertel.
O'Shea said: "Driving here this evening, I thought this was my best chance, so I am glad she has won again. I know she stays the trip well so was happy to be positive from a long way out and I had a very willing partner."
Al Nabooda added: "I have a great trainer and top jockey, so the team is strong behind me and that was a very good ride from Tadhg."
The owner completed a double, this time combining with Musabbeh Al Mheiri and Fernado Jara to land the 1600m handicap courtesy of AF Momtaz. The winner was registering a third career success, all over this track and trip, including on his penultimate start in April. Fourth on his one previous start this season, in an apprentice race three weeks ago, the 6-year-old is another winner bred by Al Nabooda and, like AF Taraha, is by his prolific sire AF Al Buraq. Happy to track the early pace, set by O'Shea on the same owner's AF Mekhbat, Jara went for home soon after entering the straight and they never looked likely to be caught thereafter.
Assistant trainer Maria Ritchie said: "That was a very good effort from both horse and jockey. It is great to have horses for Mr Al Nabooda and this is a nice, solid, horse who always runs well, especially here at Abu Dhabi."
The concluding 1600m maiden produced the closest finish of the night with AF Almajhaz attempting gallantly to make every post a winning one under Bernard Pinheiro—only to be denied in the final strides by Pat Cosgrave aboard Optimizm.
Winning at the seventh time of asking, the 4-year-old filly's best previous effort was on her latest start, beaten just a neck in third over 1800m on dirt at Al Ain. Trained by Abdallah Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, she just failed to get up to win on that occasion but gained compensation here and clearly stays further.
Racing returns to Abu Dhabi on Sunday, Dec. 22. Meydan Racecourse will host a Racing at Meydan meeting on Thursday, Dec. 19—its final meeting before the global showcase DWC Carnival commences.