Racing at Meydan on Saturday, sponsored by Pillar Partners Gulf News, is highlighted by a trio of handicaps providing horses on the cusp of Dubai World Cup Carnival (DWCC) eligibility the opportunity to qualify for the international extravaganza.
The first such opportunity, a 1600m turf handicap, has attracted a capacity field of 16 and, predictably given the numbers, looks absolutely wide open.
For Godolphin, Saeed bin Suroor saddles Lost In Time, the mount of Hector Crouch, but rated 82, some way off the magic mark of 90 required for DWCC eligibility. A homebred 4-year-old Dubawi gelding, Crouch’s mount had four fruitless appearances at the 2020 carnival and ran just once on his return to Europe.
Bin Suroor said: “We gelded him after last year’s carnival and he has been working nicely since returning to Dubai, so should run well. It looks a good race for him although a very competitive one.”
A quarter of the 16 runners are set to sport the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose two mounts at Meydan on Thursday’s carnival card are his first in the UAE this season, with first jockey Jim Crowley opting to partner Almoreb for Ali Rashid Al Rayhi.
Also retained by the owner, Dane O’Neill rides stable companion Tafaakhor with the other pair to carry the world famous blue and white silks, Al Salt and Bawaasil, to be partnered by Clement Lecoeuvre and Pat Dobbs for Erwan Charpy and Doug Watson respectively.
From a pair of runners to be saddled by Salem bin Ghadayer for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Mickael Barzalona prefers Nova Roma, leaving Royston Ffrench the mount on stablemate Homespin.
Also on turf and equally competitive, 15 are due to contest the concluding 1000m handicap, including no less than six for Sheikh Hamdan, Crowley choosing to ride Taneen for Musabbeh Al Mheiri, O’Neill opting for the Al Rayhi-trained Tashaaboh.
The latter’s stable companion Etisalat, for the same owner, won a course and distance handicap a fortnight ago under Sandro Paiva who maintains the partnership.
Paiva said: “That was a good win the last time in a similarly competitive race to Saturday’s. Obviously I am delighted to ride him again.”
Second to Paiva’s mount was the Al Mheiri-trained Dahawi who then filled the same berth over 1000m at Jebel Ali last Friday. Antonio Fresu has ridden the 5-year-old Heeraat gelding in all four outings this season, finishing runner-up thrice and landing a 1200m Jebel Ali handicap in December, their second
outing of the campaign.
Fresu said: “This horse is just so consistent and has been in the first three in each of his seven most recent starts, winning twice. Saturday’s race looks a tough one, but he is in great form and should run another big race.”
Sandwiched between these two turf handicaps is the best dirt race on the card, a 1600m handicap and another race to be contested by the maximum allowed field of 16.
Again, Barzalona had a choice of two for the Bin Ghadayer/Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed combination, opting to ride Monoski. Ffrench partners Untold Secret, one of six course and distance winners in the field, for the same connections.
With five and four runners respectively, Doug Watson and Satish Seemar are responsible for more than half the field between them.
For Watson, Dane O’Neill rides Mayaadeen, the only runner in the race for his main employer Sheikh Hamdan, with stable jockey Pat Dobbs choosing local debutant Double Orb from the remaining quartet.
For Seemar, Tadhg O’Shea partners Karaginsky for whose owner Nasir Askar he rides when available with stable jockey, Richard Mullen, opting to partner Majestic Thunder for local syndicate Touch Gold Racing.
Al Rayhi saddles a pair already successful over track and trip, Paiva aboard Secret Trade with stable jockey Connor Beasley seemingly preferring the claims of Gervais.
A 7-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, Beasley’s choice has been a revelation this season, a campaign he started with one career victory after 25 starts. Successful in two of his three most recent outings, over this 1600m then, a fortnight ago, dropped to 1400m, he clearly enjoys the Meydan dirt surface.
Beasley said: “He has been in great form this season and we are drawn in the middle which is a help. Obviously he is creeping up the weights and this is another tough handicap but he should run his usual, solid, race.”