Doug Watson’s star filly Mnasek, owned by Al Rashid Stables, is the headline act at Meydan on Thursday when she makes her eagerly awaited return in Race 5, the 1400m rated conditions race.
Impressive winner of the UAE Oaks in February, she has to concede weight to her five rivals on her first outing since failing to fire in the UAE Derby, her final appearance of the campaign in March.
The Empire Maker filly was due to make her comeback two weeks ago at Meydan but was withdrawn due to a poor scope.
The 102-rated Mnasek, the highest ranked horse in the field, is the class act of the race and with conditions in her favour is fancied to start her campaign in style. She is hard to oppose and can justify short odds in the hands of Pat Dobbs.
Al Rashid Stable has made a flying start to the season and can bag another decent prize, six days after the exciting Remorse took out the feature at Jebel Ali, while Watson continues to bang in the winners and is operating at a solid 17% strike rate since racing resumed last month.
The opening juvenile maiden at Meydan this season, Race 2, over a distance of 1200m, has attracted seven colts, all unraced. Local trainer Ahmad bin Harmash sent out the impressive two-year-old Little Afrodite to win at Jebel Ali last Friday.
He unleashes the US-bred Mr Kafoo, a $35,000 (R533,745) purchase at OBS Sales in April. By Frosted, he is out a seven-time winning mare and has the benefit of a trial last month.
He has the assistance of the talented Ray Dawson. The Irish native has quickly made a big impression in his first stint in the UAE in his new role as stable jockey for Ahmed bin Harmash.
On Tuesday the Emirates Racing Authority, the governing body of the sport in the UAE, announced that they have temporarily suspended trainer Satish Seemar’s licence following an inquiry into his personal status with the United States Government.
Seemar’s long-serving assistance and nephew, Bhupat, will take over the licence at Zabeel Stables and he sends out his first runners — Bin Askar, Conglomerate and Summer Is Tomorrow — in the race.
Riding arrangements suggest the last-named, the choice of stable jockey Tadhg O’Shea, is their main hope. The son of Summer Front was sourced at the Arqana breeze-up sale in April, costing his owners a hefty £120,000 (R2.4 million) and demands obvious respect.
In a tricky race, the Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Made In Dubai, a well-bred colt by top US dirt sire More Than Ready, is one to consider, along with Doug Watson’s Talking Names, from the first crop of the ill-fated Dubai World Cup winner and US champion Arrogate.
Endifaa, trained by Fawzi Nass, can build on his pleasing comeback behind Zero To Hundred and open his account in Race 4, a 1600m Maiden Plate. By Muhaarar, he ran with credit last season, most notably when a two-length third behind Uruguayan champion El Patriota in prep for the Al Bastakiya, the middle leg of the Dubai Triple Crown.
Endifaa, the mount of Adrie De Vries, left the impression he would be sharper for his seasonal debut, understandable as he was returning from a near seven-month break.
On the official ratings, the 82-rated Nayefah looks the chief threat. Second to Mnasek in UAE Oaks last winter, she produced a lacklustre effort on her return at Jebel Ali and is readily opposed.
It looks highly significant nine-time champion Tadhg O’Shea has chosen the unraced Kafoo, one of two runners representing Bhupat Seemar. The Irish rider has opted to ride the well-bred son of Dubai World Cup winner and top US sire Curlin, who was sold for $250,000 (R3.8m) at the 2019 Keeneland September Sale.
Zabeel Stables retained apprentice Sean Kirrane rides Al Maroom, a filly who has not finished worse than fifth in her five appearances at Meydan. She was caught close home by Atlantic Sky on her seasonal debut here two weeks ago, a solid comeback and arguably the best run of her career. She’s entitled to improve for the race and can’t be overlooked.
The 1400m handicap, thirty minutes later, is wide-open and has attracted a full field of 16. Watson-trained Sendeed showed improved form when a close fourth behind Gentile Bellini on his seasonal debut and is respected, along with stable companions Far Sky (Pat Dobbs) and Royal Sands (Sam Hitchcott), despite being done no favours with their awkward draws out wide.
Veteran Rich And Famous, winner over the course (made all) 12 months ago, has the benefit of a recent run and must enter calculations for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer, who has his team in better form after a slow start.
Of the others, California Jumbo can’t be ignored for new trainer Helal Alalawi on his first start since March. He has a good record at Meydan and holds sound claims, especially if he gets a strong gallop.
Recent Meydan winner Zero To Hundred looks the one to beat in the 2000m handicap, Race 6. The son of Dubawi finally got off the mark when getting better of Triple Venture and Endifaa in a 1600m maiden, a deserved success after knocking on the door all last season.
The son of Dubawi will be suited by the step up in distance and is fancied to follow up for Zabeel Stables under Tadhg O’Shea.
Meqdam, another son of Dubawi, rates a clear danger to Zero To Hundred. Doug Watson’s charge arrives on the back of an encouraging comeback when third behind Dubai Canal at Jebel Ali, shaping as he would strip fitter for the race. The winner gave the form a big boost when running out a comfortable four length of a handicap at Jebel Ali last week.
Best Bet: 3 Endifaa [Race 3]
Best Value: 9 California Jumbo [Race 4]
Best Swinger: 3 Endifaa and 9 Al Maroom [Race 3]
Jackpot [Races 4-7]
Leg 1: 3, 9, 10, 13
Leg 2: 1
Leg 3: 4, 6, 8
Leg 4: 3, 4, 5, 7