Ed Marnane: Champion trainer Satish Seemar is bringing a big team to Meydan on Saturday, saddling 16 runners across the six races. He will be eager to get among the winners and give his title defence a boost.
In the opener, a 1400m maiden on turf, Seemar can start the day with a bang with his new recruit Hamama, the highest rated horse in the line-up.
Formerly trained by Ahmed bin Harmash, she showed a decent level ability last term, most notably when nearly causing a massive shock in the Dubai Trophy. Dismissed by the betting public, going off at 66-1, she was beaten a neck by the Godolphin-owned Platinum Star, just failing to hold off the late burst of the Christophe Soumillon-ridden colt in the valuable event on turf.
This looks a good opportunity for the US-bred Hamama to open her account at seventh time of asking.
A field of 14 will contest the second maiden, over 1900m on dirt, Race 2. Zero To A Hundred, trained by Seemar, should take the prize in the hands of stable jockey Richard Mullen. A graduate of the Racing In Dubai Sale, the Dubawi five-year-old has finished in the frame in his two appearances this season.
Godolphin’s Bright Start, runner-up in three of his four races in the UK, should makes his presence felt from a plum draw in stall one on his Meydan debut. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, he switches to dirt having campaigned exclusively on turf to date. Being by Medaglia d’ Oro, out an A P Indy mare, he boasts a pedigree that suggests he can be effective on the surface.
Welsh Lord, a winner over the course and distance on his reappearance, is highly rated in Race 3, a 2000m handicap, especially after the scratching of Big Kitten.
Trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri, he followed up his victory with a close second to Meqdam back at Meydan, where he endured a troubled passage before staying on strongly in the closing stages. It was a concern the manner he hung left, especially off the home bend. He will need to avoid those antics to record his second win of the campaign.
Jockey Dane O’Neill takes over the riding duties from Jim Crowley aboard Tafaakhor in Race 5, the 2000m handicap on turf, for owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. Trained by Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, he has struggled for form since making the frame in his first two races.
In a trappy contest, Irish Freedom gets the vote, as he arrives in good heart. He is slightly eased in grade and is very unexposed under these conditions. The seven-year-old has improved since switching to turf, scoring at Abu Dhabi in November. On his latest appearance, he didn’t enjoy much luck in running when running on strongly in the closing stages to finish a close fourth behind Harbour Spirit back at the capital last month.
The finale, a 1600m handicap on dirt, sees Jebel Ali winner Masaali make his handicap debut on just his third start. Trained by Doug Watson and to be ridden by O’Neill, he looks nicely treated with an opening mark of 70. However, his lack of experience is a concern and a watching brief looks a sensible call.
In a wide-open looking race, California Jumbo is a sporting selection. A winner at Meydan in February last year, he failed to land a blow behind Imprison at Jebel Ali on his latest appearance, just eight days ago. Previously, he had run well on his last visit to Meydan, making late progress to finish fourth behind Lavaspin, over a trip short of his optimum distance.
Race 1: 12 HAMAMA; 6 SPIRIT OF LIGHT; 14 VARSHA; 1 CHINA ROAD.
Race 2: 4 ZERO TO A HUNDRED; 5 BRIGHT START.
Race 3: 4 WELSH LORD; 3 HOMESPIN; 5 MILLER’S HOUSE.
Race 4: 2 DAFFG; 1 ANTONIO VIVALDI; 10 SADEEDD.
Race 5: 12 IRISH FREEDOM; 3 CARRINGTON; 2 RECORDMAN.
Race 6: 4 CALIFORNIA JUMBO; 1 GOLD FACTORY.