Jebel Ali stages its biggest race of the season on Friday afternoon, the AED575,000 Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile (1600m). News of a late withdrawl of Long River, winner of last year’s Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge; leaves seven starters. This appears to be one of the strongest renewals of the 1600m feature, generously sponsored by Shadwell Farm, the US division of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s breeding empire.
Local hero Forjatt, trained on the track by Gopi Selvaratnam for racecourse patron His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is seeking a place in the history books and an unprecedented third win in the race, which was upgraded from Listed status in 2013 and inaugurated in 1994. One of three dual winners, he was also first past the finish post in the 2015 renewal, only to be disqualified subsequently after testing positive for a prohibited substance. Now a 10-year-old, he has had one start this season when finishing an excellent third in early December’s Listed National Day Cup.
“The plan has always been to come here after Abu Dhabi. He is getting older now and will be campaigned accordingly,” Selvaratnam explained. “We are very happy with him and conditions obviously suit but this looks a very strong renewal.”
Having saddled a treble and a double at the two most recent Jebel Ali meetings, as well as a treble at Meydan last Saturday, not to mention an opening night double at the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival, Salem bin Ghadayer clearly has his team in great form. He saddles two, including Frankyfourfingers, who won the Jebel Ali Mile Prep a month ago, his first victory the 1900m Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 at Meydan in February 2015. Under Royston Ffrench, he won that course and distance prep in style before taking a 1900m Meydan handicap two weeks ago when ridden by Mickael Barzalona.
Completing the Bin Ghadyer duo and the mount of Xavier Ziani, is Manahir, sixth on his sole UAE and dirt start, at Meydan, just last Thursday. Bin Ghadayer said: “Both are in good form and it is a good situation to be in for our team with strong chances. Frankyfourfingers arrives in great form as his two efforts this season have demonstrated. Manahir is a horse we like who will improve with last week’s run behind him.”
Runner-up to Forjatt last year was Shamaal Nibras, trained by Doug Watson and also awarded second, in 2015, when Forjatt was disqualified. He had that rival back in third, last March, when landing the inaugural Jebel Ali Silver Jubilee Classic over 1400m. Winner of the National Day Cup prep, as was the case last season, on his seasonal reappearance, he suffered a troubled passage in the main event, almost eight weeks ago, and has been kept fresh since with this target in mind. Watson said: “He likes Jebel Ali and is working well but this does look a very strong renewal.”
Winner of last year’s Listed Jebel Ali Stakes, over 1950m, Farrier is also in the field with Richard Mullen riding for Satish Seemar. The trip would be his minimum stamina requirement but with the likes of Frankyfourfingers in the field, the race will be run at a good gallop which should play to Farrier’s strengths.
Runner-up in Super Saturday’s Group 1 Jebel Hatta, on the Meydan turf, in 2016, he too is a ten-year-old and Mullen said: “He has not shown his best in either start this season but has been working better recently. It is a very strong heat but hopefully can at least be competitive.