Saturday, April 21, 2018 –Chelmsford City Racecourse pulled out all the stops for the Arabian Racing Organisation Season Opener; the seven-race programme with three races headlined by sponsor ToteSport.com was a great opportunity for the crowd of over 1700 people to see horses enjoying the sun on their backs and take in a great days racing.
With fewer runners after such a protracted spell of pre-season bad weather, those there took their chance made a good day of it with some exciting looking opportunities for the coming season on show.
The first race ARO is the sole Arabian Racing Authority in the UK Newcomers Maiden Stakes for 3 and 4 year olds was on paper a tactical battle between trainers Phil Collington and 2017 Champion James Owen, the latter’s well-bred Rafeef had shown well finishing a credible second in her debut at Windsor and she proved that to bring home the first Arabian race of 2018 under Joanna Mason for the Owen yard and Owner HH Sheikh Hamden Bin Rashid Al Maktoum by just under a length to the more experienced Thamaraat under Charlie Jordan Price, who whilst probably needing further looked like she was giving Rafeef a run for her money showing plenty of future promise. Ashjaan, ridden by Will Pettis, for Phillip Collington whilst fading in the final furlong, still looks a looks a nice type and will likely be happier over a longer trip in time.
The 0-40 www.aroracing.co.uk Handicap Stakes may have left some heads scratching in terms of finding the winner, Nivisna, back from injury and having had a foal had not been without a chance prior to spreading a plate was a non-runner leaving frustrated owner, trainer, jockey, Anna Wallace watching on the side lines. Insignia, previously disappointing at Chelmsford having been victorious on turf at their last outing over rival Taer al Hurr – today ridden by Ciaran Jones, Insignia made a good break with the three runners pretty well together down the back straight. The versatile Trip to Khairo even at 15 years old showed her grit under owner, trainer jockey, Yucel Mehmet until the final furlong where Insignia broke free going 8 lengths clear to take his third race win and Owner, Breeders Jennifer and Herbie Owen and jockey Simon Walker their first winner of 2018.
HH Sheikh Hamdan was well represented and eventual winner of the £20 Free Bet at Totesport.com Open Maiden Stakes, his debutants all in with a chance. However one to catch the eye in the paddock was Paramer Angel, trained by Delyth Thomas renowned for her ability to improve a horse and now gelded he was returning to the track after a two year lay-off – despite being the only horse in the race with previous experience a slow jump didn’t offer Paramer Angel the best start under jockey Charlie Jordan Price. Turning into the home straight all horses were looking to get a place as they chased down Simon Walker on early leader Tijaary. Will Pettis taking the lead and getting a tune out of Makhaater certainly looked the winner in the closing stages although the penny certainly started to drop for well related Watheeqa as she made ground to take second place under Joanna Mason.
Refreshed horses, first time out provided the public with a great display in the Totepool Cashback Club at Totesport.com Handicap Stakes, the 0-85 race certainly offered plenty of action with Mike Palmer on the James Owen Eqleem stride for stride at the front with Zayin Angkor Centurion under David Turner (who had previously demonstrated a few of his quirks in the prelims) for trainer Peter Hammersley, with Madany joining the leading pair under Simon Walker turning into the home straight and Crahck running on under Antonia Peck followed by Joanna Mason on Karlos du Cayrou it looked like there could have been a few options until Zayin Angkor Centurion hit the front and just managed to find the line bringing home a welcome win for owner Paul Simmons, Zayin Arabian Stud. Eqleem, second was looking like a few more strides could have just turned the tables as did fast finishing Madany. It seems there are some notes to be made from this race for future races in the season on all counts.
The Bet in Play at Totesport.com handicap Stakes (0-60) was possibly the race of the day. After an awkward start with Conquer hampering Kayclaire ridden by Charlie Jordan Price and trained by Delyth Thomas, a winner over the trip two years ago and also under a lesser distance in September 2017 this certainly wasn’t without a chance looked a likely contender in running up against and Ultimate Force trained by Peter Hammersley under David Turner who had previously seen all wins on turf from a mile to 1m 3f.
The James Owens Conquer ridden by Mike Palmer had been well beaten by several of the other contenders, but stood his ground well in the early stages ahead of Ultimate force and Dolfina D’Ibos another from the James Owen string that was 2017 ARO Champion Racehorse, a course winner over 1m 6f and only in her second season; one of three horses in the James Owen Racing Club team. With Conquer dropping back this filly took up the chase for front runner Ultimate Force with Kayclaire in hot pursuit.
With a furlong to go all was to play for but non saw the danger as Ellie Mackenzie on Johara Bint Shuwaiman, a maiden from 11 starts but previously placed at the track started to stalking the pack and took her chance up the rails with a perfectly timed win over Ultimate Force second and Kayclaire third – an exciting finish and first time off the mark as a trainer for successful Endurance doyen Nikki Malcolm and her owner HH Sheikha Maryam Bint M Al Maktoum.
The sixth race HH Sheikh Mansoor Festival at CCR 19th August Handicap Stakes over 1 mile, had only seen a disappointing two declarations but the two that came made a decent race of it. Both horses owned by HH Sheikh Hamdan and trained by James Owen. Group 2 placed Alazeez and dual winner last season at the track in 2017 looked a worthy favourite under Simon Walker he raced keenly as Emiraaty bowled along at a good place, with two furlongs to go and the tempo much higher Alazeez was asked to respond but Antonia Peck riding the consistent Emiraaty who appeared well matched on paper having only been out of the frame once in 15 starts responded well to her and battled on to win convincingly over favourite Alazeez.
The final race Join ARO at Chelmsford on 24th June Handicap Stakes 0-65 saw Callymay the third of three runners for Delyth Thomas look a likely contender, as she jumped out prominently, previously a winner at Chelmsford and also at the trip on turf she took an easy lead with Delishess who has recently joined the James Owen yard from abroad, a close second – Delishess a Grade 2 winner some years ago had reportedly lost her way and consequently had dropped in the ratings, coming into the home straight with the pair side by side with Majid Bin Krayaan owned by HH Sheikha Maryam Bint M Al Maktoum and trained by Peter Hammersley just being pushed on behind it became clear those ratings will be ascending rapidly for Delishess as she crossed the line with a convincing win over the spirited Callymay and Majid Bin Krayaan third; fourth placed Pacific Syrah, whilst placed twice at Chelmsford last year and not without ability just hadn’t got into the race for Jockey Danny Kerr and trainer James Owen who enjoyed an excellent start to the season with 4 wins on the day.