Ed Marnane – South African Alistair Cohen, recently appointed as the Emirates Racing Authority’s new race caller, will make his debut on Friday 29 October when Jebel Ali hosts the opening meeting of the new season with a seven-race card.
Champion trainer Doug Watson found Jebel Ali a happy hunting ground last term, highlighted by Al Tariq’s victory in the Jebel Ali Sprint (Group 3), one of his 17 winners at the Dubai track. The Dubai-based American is bringing a big team to Jebel Ali, saddling 19 horses and he looks to have plenty of strong chances of getting among the winners and starting the defence of his title with a bang.
Racing kicks off with a nine-runner maiden, over 1400m for four-year-olds and upwards. Pat Dobbs, Watson’s stable jockey, has chosen to ride the lightly-raced Express Route, one of three runners representing Red Stables.
Formerly trained by Charlie Appleby, he caught the eye on his local debut at Jebel Ali, staying on nicely in the closing stages behind Vasari. On his next appearance, he failed to build on that promise when stepping up in distance at Meydan, trailing in 14 lengths behind Al Mureib. Express Route can be forgiven that lacklustre effort, it was reported he had a minor bleed.
He can bounce back to form on the back of a 232-day break and is fancied to open his account at the fourth time of asking. The consistent five-year-old Leadership, runner-up on his last two visits to Jebel Ali, merits respect if primed and ready on the back of a lengthy absence, while the unexposed Waathig, trained at Jebel Ali by Nicholas Bachalard, is open to improvement and is one to consider in a race not many appeal.
Race 2, a 1400m Handicap, has attracted the biggest field of the afternoon with 15 declared, and looks wide open.
Law Of Peace, trained by former champion Satish Seemar, has the assistance of Tadhg O’Shea and is the most interesting runner. By Shamardal out of the Fillies’ Mile (Group 1) winner Certify, he impressed when opening his account at Abu Dhabi in February before twice finishing second when switched to handicap company at Jebel Ali. He’s very unexposed, unlike most of his rivals, and has sound claims.
Thirty minutes later only six runners will contest Race 3, a 1200m maiden for three-year-olds.
King Leo, an AE240,000 (R980,000) graduate of the Racing in Dubai Sale in April, has joined new trainer Ahmad bin Harmash. Formerly trained by John Gosden for Godolphin, he has been gelded and wasn’t beaten far in a minor event at Wolverhampton on his final run in the UK 230 days ago. The switch to dirt is an obvious query and a watching brief looks the percentage call on his UAE debut.
Bawadi Spirit, to be ridden by Pat Dobbs for Doug Watson, has leading claims on his dirt debut. He made one start on turf last season at Meydan, showing promise behind McManaman when keeping on one-paced to finish less than four lengths behind his better fancied stable companion.
Tahdeed, gelded in the off-season, is proven under the conditions and if coming back to the form of his close third behind Cross The Ocean here 11 months ago, he should go close in the hands of Richard Mullen.
The best bet on the card comes up in the finale, a 1600m maiden. Al Murqab, trained by Doug Watson, was beaten a short-head by Faithful Soldier at Jebel Ali in March, his final run of the campaign and first since a gelding operation. This looks a good opportunity to get his head in front on his fifth racecourse appearance.
In a weak race Nayefah, the only filly in the field, rates this biggest threat for the home team. She contested many of the top three-year-old races last season, producing her best effort in the UAE Oaks (Group 3) when chasing home Mnasek. She’s closely matched with the selection on official ratings.
Race 1: 4 Express Route; 8 Waathiq; 5 Leadership; 7 Shanghai Tong.
Race 2: 3 Law Of Peace; 4 Zainhom; 5 Far Sky; 2 Mystery Land.
Race 3: 6 Tahdeed; 1 Bawadi Spirit; 4 King Leo; 3 Dignity Joy.
Race 4: 5 Dahawi; 11 Ababil; 4 Cocobai; 12 Sharamm.
Race 5: 2 Miracle Maker; 6 Oktalgano; 8 Meqdam; 5 Arabian Moon.
Race 6: 7 Montakhab; 3 Falcon Claws; 4 Untold Secret; 1 Zucchini.
Race 7: 1 Al Murqab; 6 Nayefah; 5 Light Beam; 2 Emdakam.
Best Bet: 1 Al Murqab (Race 7)
Best Value: 5 Dahawi (Race 4)
Best Swinger: 4 Express Route and 5 Leadership (Race 1)
Jackpot (Races 4-7):
Leg 1: 4, 5, 11
Leg 2: 2, 5, 6, 8
Leg 3: 1, 3, 4, 7
Leg 4: 1