Dubai World Cup –the world’s richest race day is barely two weeks away, and all eyes will be on Meydan Racecourse this Thursday as the penultimate meeting of the season gets underway.
On the agenda is a seven race card, all on the dirt surface, highlighted by a valuable 1600m handicap, the IPIC Trophy, for which 15 have been declared, including the Doug Watson-trained Active Spirit.
The six year old landed his first win of the season a fortnight ago at Meydan in a 2000m handicap under Sam Hitchcott.
This was a return to winning ways for the Red Stables resident who had two impressive wins last season at Meydan, including over course and distance. Stable jockey Pat Dobbs, aboard for both of last season’s victories, takes over in the saddle.
“He has come out of that last race in great shape,” said Watson. “The draw has been kind so, hopefully, he will produce a big run and he is a course and distance winner so the shorter trip should not be a concern.”
Tadhg O’Shea rides Shawaahid, making his dirt debut, in just his fourth start since joining Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
The four year old owned by Khalifa Al Nabooda has run well on each of his three local outings, his most recent win coming last year over slightly further, on the all-weather in England.
Two other factors make him a key contender, firstly he is well drawn and secondly he has been working on this surface daily.
“He seems to handle the surface in the mornings so hopefully will under race conditions but you never know until you try,” said O’Shea. “His form is good and he has been working well so, if conditions do not catch him out, he should be thereabouts in a competitive race.”
In his role as first jockey to HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Jim Crowley had the choice of Nolohay and Munaaser, electing to partner the latter for Al Rayhi.
The Sheikh Hamdan owned six year old has just one local victory to his name, which came on his UAE debut in a 2000m dirt handicap on the second night of last year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival.
Dane O’Neill, also retained by Sheikh Hamdan, partners Nolohay, one of two in the race for Maria Ritchie, who celebrated her first winner with AF Ssayeb at Abu Dhabi on Sunday. She also saddles Muhtaram under stable jockey, Fernando Jara.
Two more offerings from the Oasis stables can be seen in action in the equally valuable 1200m handicap, the Borealis, An IPIC Group Company. The first is Druid’s Ridge ridden by Fernando Jara and Ajraam ridden by Dane O’Neill.
The pair seemingly Sheikh Hamdan’s second string from four runners among the nine strong field.
“Druids Ridge ran very well over course and distance last time so conditions should suit and he is well drawn,” said Ritchie.
“Ajraam won over course and distance in November but lost his way a bit. He seems in good form now though and has a nice draw so should run well.”
Crowley has opted to ride Raafid, trained by Al Rayhi and facing his easiest local task on just his third run for the yard but badly drawn, widest of all, in nine.
The trainer also saddles Mutahaddith and Estidraak, first and second over course and distance 12 days ago. O’Shea, aboard the winner on that occasion, switches to Estidraak, the horse that chased him home also owned by Sheikh Hamdan.
The owner’s fourth runner is dirt debutant, Greeb, one of two in the field for Watson who also saddles Mathematics, a winner three times this season, once over course and distance.
“Mathematics is proven under these conditions but has been done few favours by the draw,” said Watson. “Greeb ran twice at Jebel Ali but has not run on dirt at Meydan before. There is nothing else for him on turf so we will see how he handles the surface.”
On his most recent outing, Mathematics was third behind the Satish Seemar-trained Raven’s Corner, the mount of Richard Mullen.
“He is progressive and perhaps a Carnival prospect for next year,” said assistant trainer, Bhupat Seemar. “An excellent second on his first run for us, he won well last time and is having just his third local outing. We expect him to go very close.”
Caption: Active Spirit trained by Doug Wtason seen here winning the Meydan Sobha Trophy under Sam Hitchcott two weeks ago, leads the contenders for Thursday’s feature race at Meydan (Photo credit: Dubai racing Club// Andrew Watkins)
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