Racing at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday was highlighted by an impressive performance by promising 3-year-old Yulong Warrior, as well as the Zayed Sports City Trophy, an ultra-competitive 1400m turf handicap, and it did not disappoint with three runners in a line with just 50m remaining before Ejaaby swept clear to land the spoils in style.
At the 300m pole, Pat Dobbs and local debutant, Pillar Of Society eased to the front, immediately tackled by Portamento, with Speedy Move and Mind That Boy looking to throw down a challenge. However, out wide and riding for his main patron, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Jim Crowley was asking Ejaaby, a 1200m turf winner at Meydan two weeks ago, to throw down his challenge. Just as Pillar Of Society, who was on the rail, looked in control, Crowley’s mount finished fast and late to deny his stable companion in the style of an improving horse.
Crowley said: “I know the horse well from England so it was great the boss has sent him out here this season and he has really thrived since he arrived. He won over 1200m last time but this was a better effort and the 1400m has really suited him. He has not had that much racing and hopefully is a progressive horse and versatile regarding to trip as he was not stopping at the end which could open up more options.”
Both first and second are trained by UAE Champion Trainer Doug Watson, who added: “Obviously we are delighted with both of them; to have first and second in such a competitive race is a great result for the whole team.”
The ADSB Trophy, a 1600m dirt maiden, was won by Yulong Warrior for trainer Satish Seemar and jockey Richard Mullen. Having just his second start for the Seemar team and on dirt, the son of Street Cry was never headed and always seemed to be travelling easily. He crossed the wire a comfortable winner over a game Roy Orbison.
“He contested some very good maidens in Ireland and performed with credit, before Satish bought him at the sales in June,” Mullen said. “It has taken him a while to acclimatise and to adapt to dirt racing but he is still learning about the different type of racing. Whatever he achieves this campaign, he is going to be a lot better horse next season as he matures and gains more experience: As you saw there, he was not sure what to do early on and wanted to go straight as we approached that first turn. He will only improve, both physically and mentally.”
Seemar confirmed post-race that the US$460,000 Goffs London purchase would point to the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) over the same course and distance in 12 days.
Trainer and jockey completed a double and look to have another progressive, inexperienced, horse on their hands after Storyboard made it two wins from as many local outings, in the Healthpoint Health & Wellbeing Destination Cup, a 1600m dirt handicap. Raced just once in France, he made a winning UAE debut, over the same course and distance, a month ago but certainly built on that here. Settled well off the early speed, he made smooth progress at the top of the straight before quickening to lead and pulling clear 200m out.
“He came from Andre Fabre in France who is renowned for taking his time and being patient with his horses and we are reaping the rewards for that,” Mullen said. “He is an easy horse to ride because he does everything you ask of him but is going to be better over further. Like Yulong Warrior he is just getting used to the tempo of dirt racing and will be an exciting prospect next season as he is going to grow and fill out.”
Ideally berthed in stall one, Scrutineer was sent straight to the front by Tadhg O’Shea in the 1200m dirt handicap, the Mubadala Petroleum Trophy, chased originally by Pirate’s Cove. That one cried enough at halfway, leaving Lytham St Annes, like the winner owned by Mohd Khalifa Al Basti, to give forlorn pursuit. Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, Scrutineer was winning for the fourth time, but first locally on his seventh UAE outing.
It was UAE winner 450 for O’Shea, who said: “He has a lot of natural speed this horse and his dirt form was very good before he struggled on turf last time. From stall one I was always going to be positive to utilise that pace and his determined attitude has put him in good stead today. On his penultimate run, he was only caught late by Drafted, who won a good carnival race on Thursday so, despite top weight, we were pretty hopeful he would be hard to beat.”
The meeting opened with the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre Healthy Living Cup, a 1200m dirt maiden and General Line made all under Xavier Ziani, in doing so, providing trainer Omar Daraj a first winner of the campaign. Having just her sixth career start, and third since joining Daraj this season, she had run very well on her seasonal debut in December before struggling in a competitive handicap two weeks ago.
“She had some good form in the book, especially first time this season when only caught near the line so I was pretty hopeful of a good run,” Xiani said. “It was a much stronger race she contested last time but she has shown a great attitude today and is a small filly with a big heart.”
Adrie de Vries has few peers on the Meydan turf and produced Travis County to lead late on in the Masdar Trophy, a1600m turf maiden, for Ismail Mohammed. Having his tenth career start but just third locally, having finished second twice in dirt maidens for new connections, it was a first UAE outing on turf for him and he seemed to relish it. Not the quickest away, he was nearer last than first for the first half of the race before making stealthy progress in the long straight, leading about 200m from home and staying on strongly.
“I must confess, even after halfway I did not think I had much chance as he was just never going early on and he has been a frustrating horse,” De Vries said. “We have been trying to find his best trip and surface but, today, he took a really long while to get going. However, when I pulled him out he ran on strongly and, 200m out, I knew I was going to get there. Hopefully, now he has put his head in front and won a race, it will do his confidence a lot of good.”
The easiest winner of the night was Grand Dauphin who led virtually from the outset under Gerald Mosse in the Strata Acro – Structures Cup, a 2200m dirt handicap, and refused to abdicate to the finish. It was a first winner of the season for trainer Ahmed Al Shemaili.
“I was actually pretty hopeful he would run a big race. I was able to dictate the pace and then give him a breather,” Mosse said. “Once he kicked clear I knew he was unlikely to stop and that they would not catch me.”
The finale, the Mubadala Champions Cup, a turf handicap over 1800m, was won by Good Trip, who had just that when wheeling out to the center of the track and running down Muzdawaj to win by a short head. Tadhg O’Shea was in the saddle for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.