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Sheikh Hamdan’s blue and white lightened a sombre summer

One of the many memorable themes of a truncated Flat campaign has been the success enjoyed by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Performances by such stars as Battaash, Mohaather and Nazeef has helped the owner have arguably his best ever season.

With five domestic Group Ones, more than 100 winners and a strike-rate of 20 per cent, plus big-race wins abroad, it has been a year to remember for Sheikh Hamdan – albeit one tempered by the effect of the pandemic.

“It’s been a horrible year for everybody globally, let alone just us, but on the track we’ve been very lucky,” said Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold.

“We’ve had a very good year. It’s been as good a year probably as we’ve ever had, at least for 30 years.”

Gold reflected on a Flat racing year shortened for obvious reasons but at the same time blessed with many memorable performances, supported by a stern resilience and determined will to keep the show on the road.

Racing was suspended from March 18 to June 1 – but just two weeks into the season came Royal Ascot and a first-day treble in the familiar blue and white colours to help light up a dark 2020.

“We’ve been very lucky on the track, and it started fantastically well at Ascot. It’s hard enough to get one winner there, but to have six was extraordinary,” said Gold.

Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager Angus Gold reflected on a successful year on the track
Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold reflected on a successful year on the track (Mike Egerton/PA)
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“The first day was amazing. Probably what was so good was the sheer number of good horses we had. Normally you rely on two or three. This year we were winning Group races with a number of different horses, which obviously makes a big difference.”

For Gold there were so many good performances. However, Mohaather’s effort in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, when he finally got his Group One, stood out.

“I suppose the highlight of the year was Mohaather in the Sussex. He got a big one, and he hadn’t had much luck before then,” he added.

“It was great to get his day in the sun.

“Battaash was tremendous and held his form through the year. Enbihaar was good again. She did brilliantly, and Nazeef came from being a handicapper last year to winning a Group One.

“We only kept her in training because we thought she could definitely get some black type, so to go from a Listed to Group Two to a Group One was wonderful.

“We had a couple of nice fillies in France, Raabihah and Tawkeel, so that was tremendous as well – and then it was backed up with some nice two-year-olds as well, which was nice.

Minzaal wins the Gimcrack Stakes for owner Sheikh Hamdan
Minzaal wins the Gimcrack Stakes for owner Sheikh Hamdan (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gold is looking to this year’s juveniles to develop into Classic contenders for 2021.

“Owen Burrow’s Minzaal won the Gimcrack, Marcus’s (Tregoning) horse (Alkumait) won the Mill Reef and then there was the Horris Hill as well with a horse of Charlie’s (Hills) (Mujbar),” he said.

“It was across the board, which was the satisfying bit.

“That is what you need, and the older horses kept us going early.

“We were light on some Classic three-year-olds, but hopefully some of those two-year-olds from this year have shown enough to suggest they could make up into something next year.

“There’s a horse of Dermot Weld’s that was just beaten the other day (at Leopardstown) called Wuqood, who could be very nice.

Albasheer (right) finishing a close second in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster
Albasheer (right) finishing a close second in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“There’s a number of nice, more backward horses here. I still like Albasheer of Owen Burrows’. I think it all came a bit quick for him, but he’s a potentially nice horse in the making.

“There have been one or two that have shown up just recently – winning maidens, that sort of thing – who could go on.

“It was weird to have such a good year and yet we feel, not deflated, but not being able to enjoy it really with what’s going on the world. We’ve been incredibly lucky.”

Nazeef poised to take on stablemate Palace Pier in QEII

Nazeef will fly the flag for the fillies when she takes on the colts, headed by her unbeaten John Gosden-trained stablemate Palace Pier, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

The four-year-old has progressed through the ranks, climbing from a maiden success all the way up to two Group One victories this season.

Those came against her own sex in the Falmouth Stakes and the Sun Chariot, so the British Champions Mile, sponsored by Qipco, will be her toughest task – but it is one connections feel she deserves to take.

“She’s done us proud all year,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

“Obviously, she had a couple of setbacks in terms of Goodwood, where they felt she didn’t come down the hill, and it was horrible ground in Deauville, but she bounced back to form the other day.

Nazeef has more than paid her way this season
Nazeef has more than paid her way this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She is very tough, and has a great attitude. John says all she does is eat and sleep, that she doesn’t over-exert herself at home and so doesn’t take a lot out of herself – hopefully she’s still in good form.

“At his time of year you never know, but they are happy with her. She handles easy ground. If it got really bad, I don’t know what would happen.”

Sheikh Hamdan’s other likely runner, Molatham, has something to find on ratings, though he does have smart form.

Trained by Roger Varian, the three-year-old colt won the Group Three Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot and was third behind Wichita in the Group Two Park Stakes at Doncaster last month.

“He’s a nice horse,” said Gold.

“He’s going to have to step up a couple of gears to get involved in something like this, but he won the Jersey well on the same track.”

Grounds for concern – but Battaash still on track for Abbaye

Battaash remains an intended runner in the Prix de l’Abbaye as things stand, despite the prospect of very soft ground at ParisLongchamp.

Charlie Hills’ stable star could finish only 14th behind Glass Slippers in the race 12 months ago, in a defeat many put down to the soft ground.

The six-year-old gelding has been imperious this season, winning at Royal Ascot for the first time in the King’s Stand, collecting a fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and claiming a second Nunthorpe at York.

His only success on ground described officially as soft came in 2017 – when the Prix de l’Abbaye was run at Chantilly during Longchamp’s redevelopment.

“We haven’t got as far as saying he is 100 per cent a definite runner, but from what I’ve been told it’s going to be very soft,” said Angus Gold, owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager.

“Who is that going to suit? I don’t know. At the moment he runs, but if it turns into an absolute quagmire I can’t tell you – but at the moment he runs.

“Everyone has their own theories about it. I don’t personally think it was the ground that beat him last year, he was just never at the races so I wouldn’t say that.

“We know he handles easy ground, it was soft when he won the Abbaye. If it was to get really bad – I can’t tell you.”

Enbihaar retired as minor injury rules out Prix de Royallieu

Enbihaar has been retired following a minor setback which will force her to miss Saturday’s Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp.

Trained by John Gosden, the five-year-old mare won seven of her 12 races – including five at Group Two level.

She ran in just one Group One, the Prix de Royallieu 12 months ago when beaten a length and a half by stablemate Anapurna.

Kept in training with the intention of breaking her duck at the highest level, she would have been among the favourites this weekend – having beaten the boys in the Lonsdale Cup at York last time out.

“Enbihaar will miss the Royallieu as she is currently at Shadwell Stud. She had a minor injury, and as a result has been retired – very sadly,” said Angus Gold, owner Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager.

“She’s been an absolute star, and I wish we had a few more like her – with her enthusiasm and ability.

“It was sad not to win a Group One. But she did very well to win what she did, and she was a real torch-bearer for us for the last few years.

“She was beautifully trained – I must say that. It’s very sad, but it was fantastic to keep her in training this year to win a couple more Group races.

“She’s given us a lot of fun, and obviously we’ll give her a proper chance at stud.”

Dewhurst enters Alkumait calculations

Connections of Alkumait will consider supplementing for the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket next month, following his impressive display in the Mill Reef at Newbury.

Marcus Tregoning’s juvenile faced a significant step up in class for Saturday’s six-furlong Group Two, after a comprehensive victory in maiden company at Glorious Goodwood in late July.

However, the son of Showcasing proved more than up to the task – and top-level assignments beckon.

Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: “We were absolutely thrilled with him. He showed a really nice turn of foot and won very nicely.

“The Mill Reef/Middle Park double has never really worked out for us, so we were never going to go down that route.

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“His action would suggest he prefers top of the ground. That’s not to say he wouldn’t handle cut in the ground, but I certainly don’t think he would want it heavy.”

Tregoning said in the immediate aftermath of Alkumait’s weekend win that he would be keen to run him again this season – potentially over seven furlongs to see if he could be a contender for next year’s 2000 Guineas over a mile.

The Dewhurst appears an obvious option, although the owner already has a likely candidate for the Group One contest in the Owen Burrows-trained Albasheer, who was narrowly beaten by Richard Hannon’s Chindit in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster recently.

Albasheer (right) is also in the mix for the Dewhurst
Albasheer (right) is also in the mix for the Dewhurst (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

However, Gold does not rule out the possibility of both horses lining up on the Rowley Mile.

He added: “Marcus would like to run Alkumait again this year – and as he said on Saturday, the only race for him really is the Dewhurst, which we didn’t enter him for because he’d only won a maiden at that stage.

“We’ll see how the land lies. We also have Albasheer as a possible for the Dewhurst – I think he was undone by his inexperience as much as anything at Doncaster.

“There would be a question mark over the trip for Alkumait – but if he settled well, like he did on Saturday, he’d give himself a chance. Seven furlongs at Newmarket is a different test to six at Newbury, so we’ll see.

“It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he didn’t run again this year, (but) the Dewhurst is the best two-year-old race in England, so if you can give yourself a better chance of winning it, maybe you should. ”

Alkumait completed a big-race double at Newbury for his leading owner, with Elarqam getting his career back on track in the preceding Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup Stakes.

Mark Johnston’s charge had disappointed on his two previous starts in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot and when defending his crown in the York Stakes, but he bounced back to form on Saturday.

Gold said: “I was delighted for the horse to get back winning again. He looked fantastic and clearly still has the enthusiasm for it.

“He’s probably a few pounds below the very best around, but he’s tough and genuine and will win his races.

“I’m not sure what Sheikh Hamdan wants to do with him. An obvious race for him would be something like the Canadian International – but whether that will be logistically possible, I don’t know, and Sheikh Hamdan might prefer to keep him at home.”

Raabihah not ruled out of Arc reckoning

Raabihah could still take her chance in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, despite suffering defeat in the Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Connections of the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained filly will wait a few days and see how the daughter of Sea The Stars has taken the race before committing her to Europe’s premier all-aged middle distance contest.

Raabihah was sent off the 6-5 favourite to take her track record to four wins from five starts, but went down by three lengths to the Dermot Weld’s impressive Tarnawa after staying on to edge long-time leader Dame Malliot for second place.

“The winner looked very good. I’m not taking anything away from her. I expected to see more acceleration from our filly than we did,” said Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager, Angus Gold.

“Mr Rouget felt otherwise, so we said we’d see how she comes out of it. She needs to improve to win an Arc on what we saw on Sunday.

“That has always been the plan after the Vermeille. We’ll see at the end of the week how things are.”

Gold expects Hukum to take high order in 2021 after falling short on his first try at Group One level in the St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.

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The three-year-old colt, trained by Owen Burrows, had earned a crack at the world’s oldest Classic after winning the Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury.

However, he could only manage fifth place behind Galileo Chrome on what was his fifth career start.

Trainer Owen Burrows and jockey Jim Crowley believed the horse did not stay the extended mile and three-quarters.

“That was the trainer’s and the jockey’s thought. I just noticed Jim niggling him three out, which surprised me,” said Gold.

“He stayed a mile and five at Newbury and ran right to the line. He was gone well before a mile and five on Saturday.

“I don’t know if it was just lack of stamina. Jim said to me they went a faster pace on Saturday than they did at Newbury.

“Owen has always said he’d got a lot of toe and a lot of pace so was not a guaranteed stayer, so maybe he didn’t. He would prefer easier ground, but I’m not with excuses. He was either not good enough or didn’t stay.”

He added: “Whether he runs again this season has yet to be decided. It’s too soon to decide. That is possibly it for the year. We’ll see how he comes out of it.

“I’m sure he’ll go back to a mile and a half next year. He’s a very inexperienced horse and has a big future ahead of him.”

Gold felt a lack of racing experience cost the Burrows-trained Albasheer when he was beaten a length by Chindit in the Champagne Stakes, also at Doncaster.

It was only his second start, while the winner had the benefit of two races.

“He ran a very good race. I thought he looked short of experience to me and was beaten by a better horse on the day who’d had a second run,” said Gold.

“Sadly, we’d only got the one run in. It looked like he needed the experience of another run.

“We were happy with him and the run.”

Albasheer could go for the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket next month, when he could face Chindit again.

“It’s the Dewhurst next, as long as he comes out of it well and goes forward,” he said.