Three weeks after staging the first meeting of the 2018-19 UAE racing campaign, Jebel Ali Racecourse hosts its second on Friday, a seven-race fixture highighted by two conditions races and featuring the return to Jebel Ali of course specialist Muarrab over 1200m.
Best known internationally as winner of the 2016 Dubai Golden Shaheen (Group 1) at Meydan, the now 9-year-old Muarrab has not run at Jebel Ali since November 2015, having competed only at Meydan in the interim, winning four times.
His Meydan stint is highlighted by the aforementioned Dubai Golden Shaheen, as well as the 2016 Mahab Al Shimaal (Group 3) and two renewals of the Garhoud Sprint (Listed). After a four-start stint with trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, he is now back in the care of Musabbeh Al Mheiri, for whom he has won no less than 11 times.
He faces eight rivals with a further three, as he is, owned by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also sponsors the AED 125,000 contest through Derrinstown Stud, the Irish arm of his global breeding empire.
Said owner’s retained jockey Dane O’Neill has opted to partner local debutant and stable companion Rusumaat, who has joined Al Mheiri from Mark Johnston. Gelded since he last ran in September 2017, he is 4-year-old son of Arcano who arrives as the winner of four races from 17 starts.
“It was certainly not an easy choice,” explained a philosophical O’Neill.
“We all know what Muarrab has done in the past, his Jebel Ali record is superb and he has been working well, but so has Rusumaat. I won on him at Redcar when he was a 2-year-old and he was a horse we always really liked. It will be interesting to see how he handles the Jebel Ali surface and hill, but we are hoping it will suit him. Sheikh Hamdan has some very good sprinters in the UAE and these clashes are always going to happen. I would like to think I have picked the right one, but if not, hopefully one of his other three can win.”
Al Mheiri’s stable jockey Ben Curtis partners Muarrab, while Pat Dobbs aboard the same owner’s Waady for trainer Doug Watson and the Erwan Charpy-trained Farook will be the mount of Antonio Fresu. Farook is thrice a Jebel Ali winner—once over course and distance—and Waady is having just his second dirt outing, having beaten just one rival in February’s Jebel Ali Sprint (Listed).
“There is nothing for (Waady) on turf at the moment, but he is ready for a run and in great form, so we thought we would we try him at Jebel Ali again,” Watson said. “It looks a tough race, but we could not be happier with him.”
The main danger to the Sheikh Hamdan quartet appears to be High on Life with Royston Ffrench in the saddle for Sandeep Jadhav.
A 7-year-old gelding by Invincible Spirit, he goes particularly well at Jebel Ali, where he has finished first past the post over 1000m (subsequently disqualified), 1200m and most recently—three weeks ago—over 1400m. That latest victory was achieved depsite having galloped loose before the race over a distance which appeared to tax his stamina, so the dropping back 200m should suit.
Jadhav said: “We think he is improving all the time and appears to have a great chance under what are probably his optimum conditions.”
He was chased home three weeks ago by Riflescope, the mount of Tadhg O’Shea and one of three in the race trained by Satish Seemar. Richard Mullen has chosen Above Normal, a winner of two of his Jebel Ali outings. Seemar’s third runner is Log Out Island, a new recruit from Godolphin, having passed through the ring at Meydan in the April Racing in Dubai Sale.
Half an hour earlier, in a 1400m conditions race, Seemar saddles one of the most interesting runners on the whole card in the form of The New Maharaja; a winner of his sole start in a 1000m conditions race for 3-year-olds only, here at Jebel Ali in January. Connections have been ultra-patient with this Morning Line colt, who was purchased by his trainer as a 2-year-old at Ocala, in April 2017, and is held in high regard by the team at Seemar’s Zabeel Stables.
The New Maharaja was chased home in January by fellow debutant Waqqad, whose career has taken a very different path. Trained by Rashed Bouresly, he ran six more times last season, winning once on turf.
Waqqad’s latest outing was over 1400m, when third at Jebel Ali behind Wasim, who is owned and trained by Ismail Mohammed and will conceding weight to his eight rivals in this. Interestingly, Mohammed is utilisng the apprentice claim of Emirati Saeed Al Mazrooei to lighten his charge’s burden.
Trained on the track by Nicholas Bachalard for racecourse patron His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, local debutant Draco is the unknown quantity. He arrives as the winner of his third and most recent racecourse appearance, as a 2-year-old in September 2017, a Gulfstream Park maiden over 1100m. O’Shea rides Draco from barrier three of the nine declared runners.
“He seems to have adapted to life at Jebel Ali and is pleasing us at home,” Bachalard said.
“Of our three runners on the card, he is the only one with a decent draw, which is a positive.”