Dubai: The Fawzi Nass-trained Asmar thrust himself into the Classic spotlight with an imposing victory in the Listed $250,000 Al Bastakiya, sponsored by Emirates Skywards at Super Saturday.
Run over 1,900m on the all-weather track, the race serves as a stepping stone to the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) on Dubai World Cup night.
British champion jockey Richard Hughes delivered an aggressive, front-running ride aboard the son of Cape Cross, who pulled away to front at the top of the straight and crossed the line six lengths clear of the much heralded Emirates Flyer,the UAE 2,000 Guineas runner-up.
The winner showed true toughness in what was only his fourth career start to emphatically shake off his maiden tag and announce himself as an exciting prospect. “He’s a horse going the right way and he’ll improve again for this,” said Hughes. “He’s still a little immature having been thrown in at the deep end very early in his career, but he can only improve from here.”
Nass, who trains and owns Asmar, was over the moon with the performance of his colt: “That was a great performance for a maiden to go on to win it and win it in this way. We knew he would relish this trip and it is a great effort to win a race like this as a maiden.
“We agreed for Richard to sit very close to the pace and if there was no pace to dictate terms basically, because the last thing we wanted was for them to be crawling and sprinting the last three furlongs or so, which would not suit our horse.
“So Richard basically took hold of the race and did what he had to do and it paid off. He was very impressive and we’ll go the obvious way which is to the UAE Derby three weeks from now. Richard will most certainly keep the ride.”
Asmar, bred by Eric Puerari and Oceanic Bloodstock, is out of Zaneton (by Mtoto) and his siblings include the prolific 2012 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Zagora.
Meanwhile, South African speedball Shea Shea stayed on course for another shot at the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint with a hard-earned victory over Godolphin’s Ahtoug in the Group 3 $175,000 Meydan Sprint, sponsored by Arabian Adventures. Ridden by Belgian big-race jockey Christophe Soumillon, the six-year-old son of National Emblem,rolled past the frontrunners to win by a head on a turf track rated as fast.
The Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal sponsored by Emirates Skywards, which acts as a prep for the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1)fell to Hong Kong sprinter Rich Tapestry. The winner was ridden by Olivier Doeluze for trainer Michael Chang.
Shea Shea was desperately in need of a run first-up last season and looked like he could have benefitted from a prep race ahead of the Meydan Sprint as he only got to work in the closing stages of the 1000m contest.
“He’s a horse who likes to go on the rail,” said Soumillon, who was notching his third win aboard the Mike de Kock-trained superstar. “I just wanted to follow a horse that was going well, so I sat behind Mickael Barzalona’s horse [Ahtough]. But when I asked him to go, he found the acceleration to go past the leaders and win well.”