Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club stage their first meeting of 2019 on Sunday, a six-race card highlighted by the only Thoroughbred contest, a 2400m handicap that has attracted the maximum allowed field of 14. The weights are headed by local debutant Tribal Conquest.
Owned and trained by Ismail Mohammed, whose horses are currently in very good form, the 5-year-old gelded son of Shamardal has won once from just four starts for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby, a 2000m Doncaster maiden in early August 2017 on his third outing.
He was then well beaten in a very competitive 2000m handicap at Goodwood having tried to make all the running before weakening in the final 400m, but has not been seen since, so is returning here after 504 days off. However, this Abu Dhabi assignment does represent a drop in class and the mount of Fabrice Veron, he has to be respected.
“We are looking forward to getting him on the track,” Mohammed said. “His work has been good and this looked the perfect opportunity to run him with conditions that will suit.”
Owned by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Outre Mer makes a quick return to action having failed to land a blow in a 2000m turf handicap at Meydan last Saturday.
That was his second local outing for Nicholas Bachalard, having made his dirt debut on the Jebel Ali track where he is trained, at the end of November. A 5-year-old gelded son of Raven’s Pass, that first start locally was his first for 766 days and since leaving John Gosden for whom he won twice, from six starts, in the Godolphin blue. Chris Hayes rides.
Bachalard said: “He needed his first run badly after such a long break and lost his chance leaving the stalls last week. He seems in good form at home, so hopefully Sunday’s test will suit him.”
Local champion trainer Doug Watson relies on Bowditch, the mount of Pat Dobbs. Making just his third start for the American, having also started his career with Gosden, he is now owned by Mohd Khalifa Al Basti. His first UAE outing was over 1800m at Jebel Ali, when beaten a long way, and before finding 1600m at Abu Dhabi too sharp a test three weeks ago.
“We really like him and this looks the perfect spot,” Watson said. “He just did not handle Jebel Ali the first day and then the 1600m was too short last time. We think 2400m at Abu Dhabi will really suit him and expect him to run very well, but the draw has done him no favours in 14.”
Retained by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Jim Crowley is riding in the capital for the first time this season and partners Mashaheer, receiving weight from all 13 rivals, for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
A 4-year-old Dutch Art gelding, he actually made his local debut in the same Jebel Ali race as Outre Mer, well beaten, but almost 14 lengths in front of that rival. Previously with William Haggas, he landed one of his six British starts, a 1700m Nottingham maiden when, perhaps significantly, ridden by Crowley.
Half an hour earlier, Crowley and Watson combine with Sheikh Hamdan’s Foaad, who faces 13 rivals in a very competitive 1600m handicap, arguably the most interesting of the five Purebred Arabian races. Conceding weight all round here, on his most recent outing Watson’s charge was caught on the line in a 1600m conditions race at Jebel Ali, having looked the likely winner when hitting the front 300m out under Dane O’Neill.
For His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Eric Lemartinel saddles two with Pat Cosgrave aboard Mukaram and Veron riding Elyaah. They have to be feared, as does AF Yatroq, the mount of Tadhg O’Shea and only runner in the race for owner Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda and his principal trainer, Ernst Oertel.
Lemartinel and Veron combine with one of the most intriguing runners on the card, the unbeaten RB Lam Tara, winner of her only start and one of 14 declared in a 1600m handicap. Over course and distance, at the end of November, the 4-year-old and Veron were far too good for 15 rivals in a maiden over Sunday’s course and distance. Sharing bottom weight here, it will be disappointing if she is not at least very competitive with Veron sporting the silks of Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan.