Taunton Review

The popular greys, Man Of Dreams and Señor Dublcheck, who were both without a win last year, came home in front at the first Turf fixture of the Arabian Racing Organisation 2018 season. It was in an incident packed day at the Somerset track which concluded with a deadheat, between Emiraaty and Hau Kola in the feature race.

After a prolonged winter it was a relief to welcome the sun at Taunton, though the forecast Firm ground undoubtedly had it effect on the field sizes. The meeting opened with the Forta Stud Restricted Maiden Stakes in which it was no surprised to see the two horses with experience, J Force and Pharitz Fahr dominate proceedings. Both looked particularly well in the paddock and quickly established a clear lead over the two debutants Shakatak Alenaya and Zayin Activist. It was not all plain sailing for Will Pettis aboard J Force as he was quite green in the closing stages, however it was a comfortable victory over Pharitz Phar. Both horses are likeable types and there should be more to come from them this season.

Sue Herrod, owner-breeder of J Force was delighted saying: "I’m very proud of him - it makes the long wait of breeding worthwhile. All credit must go to Phil [Collington] and his team as they take great care of him. He’s going the right way and hopefully he can do it again .

Watch J Force (Jaafer ASF x Jelvita) and Will Pettis win the Forta Stud Restricted Maiden Stakes 1m2f

The second race was packed with drama as Callymay and Simon Walker slipped up on the bottom bend causing James Harding to be unseated from Synergy and hampering the eventual winning partnership of Johara Bint Shuwaiman and Ellie Mackenzie. Take nothing away from Nikki Malcolm's charge, however as she was following up from her Chelmsford City win, just three weeks ago, and she looks to be on an upward curve.

Mackenzie recalled the incident saying:"I was lucky because Simon's horse slipped right in front of me and I had no time to react at all. My horse was hampered a little bit, but luckily it didn't make a difference and we still managed to finish in front.

"She's always been a bit of tricky mare and I think you can write off her 2017 season altogether. Nikki and Nathan tried everything they could to work out what was wrong and she seems too have wintered really well and come back in fantastic form. She's grown in confidence from her win at Chelmsford, so hopefully she can continue to progress."

Below: Johara Bint Shuwaiman (Shuwaiman Al Bahrain x Princess Proudd) with Nathan Sweeney, Nikki Malcolm, Ellie Mackenzie and breeder Jenny Lees after their win in the www.aroracing.co.uk (0-50) Handicap Stakes 1m2f

Giving trainer Phil Collington a double for the day was Ashjaan, also in maiden company, though this time over a mile. With Charlie Price on board the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum owned and bred filly led from pillar to post, though she was challenged in the closing stages by Tijaary and Simon Walker, she showed a good attitude and kept on well.

Price said:"Ashjaan ran a good race today, we decided to try her in front and she's loved every minute of it. I've been riding her at home too, though I'm still based with Tim Vaughan in Wales, I go up to Phil's in Newmarket whenever I can now."

Collington, who was unable to be present, said of his winners: "I'm very pleased with J Force getting off the mark on only his second start. All credit to Sue Herrod who has been so patient with him after an interrupted season last year.

"Ashjaan got a soft lead and was given a great ride by Charlie Price. I'm not sure how strong the form of the race is though."

Watch Ashjaan (Madjani x Neige Al Maury) and Charlie Price win the ARO welcomes Taunton Annual Badge Holders Maiden Stakes 1m
Taunton specialist Man Of Dreams, whose four-year sequence of first-time-out wins was broken here last season, was able to make amends this year for the father and daughter team of Eric and Carol Legg, who bred and train him locally. The attractive grey, who was a former ARO Champion racehorse, gave Chloe Emsley a dream ride in the process. Emsley, who has already ridden five point-to-point winners from 20 rides, was making her debut under ARO rules.

After the race she commented:" I was very privileged to get the ride on Man Of Dreams today as he was my first ride in Arabian racing. He ran a great race, running from the front all the way - he just kicked away up the home straight and was never giving me any feeling of stopping. Hopefully he can continue his form next time as, he felt great and he did it very easily."

Watch Man Of Dreams (Nizam x Dantes Dream) and Chloe Emsley win the Somerset Day (0-70) Handicap Stakes 1m
In the fifth race, Al Faaris, who was a model of consistency last season, came out on top for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and James Owen. Given a very tidy ride by Joanna Mason, he appeared to win a shade cosily by a length from long-time leader Halib Des Forges on his seasonal reappearance.

Watch Al Faaris (Madjani x Quaolina) and Joanna Mason win the ARO proud to support St Margaret's Hospice (0-80) Handicap Stakes 1m2f
In the sixth race it was a remarkable winning performance by Señor Dublcheck, who had been without a victory for three years, as all his previous winning form was over shorter trips. Trained by Claire Taylor for the BXPS Partners, he was settled in the rear by regular partner Rob Woollard, who gradually eased him into the race, producing him to challenge in the final half furlong.

Afterwards Woollard laughed saying:"We were both overdue to have a win!"

Continuing he said:"I didn't think he got the trip at Bath last year, but that was in a higher grade. I thought they went pretty quick early on which I think helped too, as he can be quite keen sometimes, which is why we left the blinkers off. I dropped him out and sat at the back and it fell into my hands really, going down the back straight and it was just a question of seeing out the trip and not committing too soon. Thankfully he got home - he's a star."

Watch Señor Dublcheck (Bengali D'Albret x Mais) and Rob Woollard win the ARO at Chepstow on 27th May (0-40) Handicap Stakes 1m5f
There was still more drama to come in the final race, with the top two in the handicap, Emiraaty and Hau Kola battling all the way to the line. Even with a photograph the judge could not spilt the pair and a deadheat was given.

Hau Kola had changed stables over the winter, leaving Phil Collington in Newmarket (to make room for his younger brother The Third Man), joining Christopher Bull in Wales. Bull commented:" It's big boots to fill, with him coming from a big yard like Phil's, but luckily I've got my father to help me and he's run really well today. Where do we go now? Who knows? He should improve from this."

Emiraaty was completing a treble for ARO Patron HH Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and a double for trainer James Owen who said:"He's brilliant. I took Antonia [Peck] off, as he had a lot of weight and I didn't want dead lead on him. Simon got on with him really well, he was as brave as ever and a great result. Has Kola beat us last year at Chelmsford and on weights I thought he would beat us today, but I think Emiraaty has improved a little bit. He's a real trier, if he comes out of this well, we might chance the ARO Cup at Windsor, otherwise we'll stick with these open handicaps."

Speaking of Al Faaris he commented:"I really fancied Madany, but he got a bit worked up and blew his race early on. Al Faaris was so consistent last year, and came second at DIAR, even though he hated the testing ground. He loved the fast ground today and travelled well. We put the visor on him just for a change [from blinkers] and he battled well, hopefully the handicappers going to be kind on him - I can't see that he's improved that much. I'd like to go to Doncaster with him, there's the DIAR prep race at Chepstow but that might be a bit too spicy for him. He's a stayer, he's a trier, he's a lovely horse."

Watch Emiraaty (Al Saoudi x Horkidee) and Simon Walker deadheat with Hau Kola (Madjani x Merwah) in the Join ARO at Taunton on 8th September Open Handicap Stakes 1m2f

The next meeting will be at Chepstow on May 27, sponsored by the Royal Cavalry of Oman. Entries open for the eight-race card on May 16, with declarations on May 24.

The fixture is immediately followed by the first UK Pattern race of the season the ARO Cup (Gr3PA), also sponsored by the Royal Cavalry of Oman, which has received 20 entries. Runners declare on May 25.

The Spring edition of The Arabian Racehorse has just been published

*ARO Stable tours, James Owen, Phil Collington and Pete Hammersley discuss their teams for the ARO 2018 racing season

*Gulf Group 1 reviews

*The Big Interview with UAE Champion Trainer Doug Watson

*Feeding with ulcers in mind, first of a new series on feeding by Jane Buchan of Baileys Horsefeeds

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magazine features photographs from 2017 HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak (International) Best Photographer Award winner & Arabian Racing Organisation Official Photographer
Debbie Burt

EMIRAATY (2011 Al Saoudi x Horkidee) and Simon Walker [far side] deadheats with HAU KOLA (2012 Madjani x Merwah) and Morgan Winstone in the Join ARO at Taunton on 8th September Open Handicap