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Abu Dhabi racing: Oertel's brace sees him close on Watson

Dubai: The match race to be UAE Champion Trainer for the 2020/21 season turned spicier as Ernst Oertel caught up with Doug Watson at the top of the leaderboard courtesy of a double strike at Abu Dhabi Sunday evening. Each has 38 wins now, with American Watson ahead on the basis of a superior countback of runners-up finishes. He has 36 to Oertel’s 30.

Oertel enhanced his chances of a fourth title courtesy of a back-to-back double by UAE Champion Jockey-elect Tadhg O’Shea, who put the riders race to bed weeks ago. Last night’s brace took the industrious Irishman’s tally to 47. Second-placed Antonio Fresu has 28.

Oertel and O’Shea won the first two races on the card with AF Asham clinching the 1200m maiden and AF Alajaj nicking the 1600m handicap that followed. Fresu maintained his two win cushion from Richard Mullen after both riders won once in the UAE capital.

Fresu was on target in Race 3, a 2200m handicap, with the Eric Lemartinel-schooled Gurm, who dug deep and headed Jacki Wickham’s Mullen driven Wakeel W’Rsan just before the finish. That took Fresu three ahead of Mullen, but the Englishman pegged him back a bit when he won the feature event of the night, the 2400m PA Group 3 Arabian Triple Crown R3 aboard Abdallah Al Hammadi’s Ottoman, who spent ounce of his reserve to hold on to victory by a short head from Lemartinel’s rapidly-closing Mujeeb.

Trained by Al Hammadi for Al Ajban Stables, the 4yo Valiant Boy colt had won the second round of the Arabian Triple Crown on March 7 and put in another hearty performance despite it being quite clear Mujeeb had had a measure of him.

Ottoman was well clear in the stretch after turning for home, but Fabrice Veron somehow managed to get Mujeeb to deliver more. Mujeeb had a lot of ground to make up and he devoured it quickly and had there been enough for another stride, it could have been him and not Ottoman that would be brought into the winners’ enclosure.

Lemartinel saddled third in Nadhra, the ride of Sandro Paiva, who finished 6.25 lengths behind her stablemate.

Khalifa Al Neyadi and Bernardo Pinheiro landed the 2200m handicap with AF Sanad, but if Watson was hoping for one of his four runners in the only Thoroughbred contest of the card - the last Abu Dhabi race this season - to bring him the win that would give him a slender lead... it did not happen.

Ahmad bin Harmash and Fernando Jara had that honour as Zaman showed a terrific turn of foot to win the 1600m handicap.